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Full text of "A Texas matchmaker"

A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 




BY ANDY 
ADAMS 



LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 
DAVIS 






5^ 



WELLS BROTHERS, THE YOUNG CATTLE KINGS. 

Illustrated. 

REED ANTHONY, COWMAN. With frontispiece. 
CATTLE BRANDS. 
THE OUTLET. Illustrated. 
A TEXAS MATCHMAKER. Illustrated. 
THE LOG OF A COWBOY. Illustrated. 

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 
BOSTON AND NEW YORK 



A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 




ROLLING THE I5ULL OVER LIKE A HOOP (page 207) 



TEXAS MATCHMAKER 



BY 



ANDY ADAMS 

AUTHOR OF ' THE LOG OF A COWBOY ' 



ILLUSTRATED BY E. BOYD SMITH 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 



LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 
DAVIS 



COPYRIGHT 1904 BY ANDY ADAMS 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



Published May, 1904 



TO 

FKANK H. EARNEST 

MOUNTED INSPECTOR U. S. CUSTOMS SERVICE 
LAREDO, TEXAS 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGB 

I. LANCE LOVELACE .... 1 

II. SHEPHERD'S FERRY .... 13 

III. LAS PALOMAS 30 

IV. CHRISTMAS 49 

V. A PIGEON HUNT. .. . . . 62 

VI. SPRING OF '76. . . . , 83 

VII. SAN JACINTO DAY . * . 103 

VIII. A CAT HUNT ON THE FRIO . . 121 

IX. THE ROSE AND ITS THORN . . . 132 

X. AFTERMATH . . . . . 144 

XL A TURKEY BAKE , , . . 163 

XII. SUMMER OF '77 .... 176 

XIII. HIDE HUNTING . . . .198 

XIV. A Two YEARS' DROUTH ... 215 
XV. IN COMMEMORATION . ''.! . . 235 

XVI. MATCHMAKING. .... 251 

XVII. WINTER AT LAS PALOMAS . . .267 

XVIII. AN INDIAN SCARE .... 282 

XIX. HORSE BRANDS -T; . . .297 

XX. SHADOWS . . . . . . 311 

XXL INTERLOCUTORY PROCEEDINGS . . 328 

XXII. SUNSET . 345 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

ROLLING THE BULL OVEB LIKE A HOOP 

(page 207) .... Frontispiece 

WE GOT THE AMBULANCE OFF BEFORE SUNRISE 26 
FLASHED A MESSAGE BACK . . V . 40 
GAVE THE WILDEST HORSES THEIR HEADS . 122 
HE SPED DOWN THE COURSE > ... . . . 190 

UTTERING A SINGLE PIERCING SNORT . . 308 



A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 



CHAPTER I 
LANCE LOVELACE 

WHEN I first found employment with Lance Love 
lace, a Texas cowman, I had not yet attained my 
majority, while he was over sixty. Though not a 
native of Texas, " Uncle Lance " was entitled to be 
classed among its pioneers, his parents having emi 
grated from Tennessee along with a party of Ste 
phen F. Austin's colonists in 1821. The colony with 
which his people reached the state landed at Quin- 
tana, at the mouth of the Brazos Eiver, and shared 
the various hardships that befell all the early Texan 
settlers, moving inland later to a more healthy local 
ity. Thus the education of young Lovelace was one 
of privation. Like other boys in pioneer families, 
he became in turn a hewer of wood or drawer of 
water, as the necessities of the household required, 
in reclaiming the wilderness. When Austin hoisted 
the new-born Lone Star flag, and called upon the 
sturdy pioneers to defend it, the adventurous set 
tlers came from every quarter of the territory, and 



2 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

among the first who responded to the call to arms 
was young Lance Lovelace. After San Jacinto, 
when the fighting was over and the victory won, 
he laid down his arms, and returned to ranching 
with the same zeal and energy. The first legisla 
ture assembled voted to those who had borne arms 
in behalf of the new republic, lands in payment 
for their services. With this land scrip for his 
pay, young Lovelace, in company with others, set 
out for the territory lying south of the Nueces. 
They were a band of daring spirits. The country 
was primitive and fascinated them, and they re 
mained. Some settled on the Frio River, though 
the majority crossed the Nueces, many going as far 
south as the Rio Grande. The country was as large 
as the men were daring, and there was elbow room 
for all and to spare. Lance Lovelace located a 
ranch a few miles south of the Nueces River, and, 
from the cooing of the doves in the encinal, named 
it Las Palomas. 

" When I first settled here in 1838," said Uncle 
Lance to me one morning, as we rode out across 
the range, " my nearest neighbor lived forty miles 
up the river at Fort Ewell. Of course there were 
some Mexican families nearer, north on the Frio, 
but they don't count. Say, Tom, but she was a 
purty country then ! Why, from those hills yonder, 
any morning you could see a thousand antelope in 
a band going into the river to drink. And wild 
turkeys ? Well, the first few years we lived here, 



LANCE LOVELACE 3 

whole flocks roosted every night in that farther 
point of the encinal. And in the winter these 
prairies were just flooded with geese and brant. If 
you wanted venison, all you had to do was to ride 
through those mesquite thickets north of the river 
to jump a hundred deer in a morning's ride. Oh, 
I tell you she was a land of plenty." 

The pioneers of Texas belong to a day and gen 
eration which has almost gone. If strong arms and 
daring spirits were required to conquer the wilder 
ness, Nature seemed generous in the supply; for 
nearly all were stalwart types of the inland viking. 
Lance Lovelace, when I first met him, would have 
passed for a man in middle life. Over six feet in 
height, with a rugged constitution, he little felt his 
threescore years, having spent his entire lifetime 
in the outdoor occupation of a ranchman. Living 
on the wild game of the country, sleeping on the 
ground by a camp-fire when his work required it, 
as much at home in the saddle as by his ranch 
fireside, he was a romantic type of the strenuous 
pioneer. 

He was a man of simple tastes, true as tested 
steel in his friendships, with a simple honest mind 
which followed truth and right as unerringly as 
gravitation. In his domestic affairs, however, he 
was unfortunate. The year after locating at Las 
Palomas, he had returned to his former home on the 
Colorado River, where he had married Mary Bryan, 
also of the family of Austin's colonists. Hopeful 



4 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

and happy they returned to their new home on the 
Nueces, but before the first anniversary of their 
wedding day arrived, she, with her first born, were 
laid in the same grave. But grief does not kill, and 
the young husband bore his loss as brave men do 
in living out their allotted day. But to the hour of 
his death the memory of Mary Bryan mellowed him 
into a child, and, when unoccupied, with every re 
curring thought of her or the mere mention of her 
name, he would fall into deep reverie, lasting some 
times for hours. And although he contracted two 
marriages afterward, they were simply marriages 
of convenience, to which, after their termination, 
he frequently referred flippantly, sometimes with 
irreverence, for they were unhappy alliances. 

On my arrival at Las Palomas, the only white 
woman on the ranch was " Miss Jean," a spinster 
sister of its owner, and twenty years his junior. 
After his third bitter experience in the lottery of 
matrimony, evidently he gave up hope, and in 
duced his sister to come out and preside as the 
mistress of Las Palomas. She was not tall like her 
brother, but rather plump for her forty years. She 
had large gray eyes, with long black eyelashes, and 
she had a trick of looking out from under them 
which was both provoking and disconcerting, and 
no doubt many an admirer had been deceived by 
those same roguish, laughing eyes. Every man, 
Mexican and child on the ranch was the devoted 
courtier of Miss Jean, for she was a lovable woman ; 



LANCE LOVELACE 5 

and in spite of her isolated life and the constant 
plaguings of her brother on being a spinster, she 
fitted neatly into our pastoral life. It was these 
teasings of her brother that gave me my first 
inkling that the old ranchero was a wily match 
maker, though he religiously denied every such ac 
cusation. With a remarkable complacency, Jean 
Lovelace met and parried her tormentor, but her 
brother never tired of his hobby while there was a 
third person to listen. 

Though an unlettered man, Lance Lovelace had 
been a close observer of humanity. The big book 
of Life had been open always before him, and he 
had profited from its pages. With my advent at 
Las Palomas, there were less than half a dozen 
books on the ranch, among them a copy of Bret 
Harte's poems and a large Bible. 

" That book alone," said he to several of us one 
chilly evening, as we sat around the open fireplace, 
" is the greatest treatise on humanity ever written. 
Go with me to-day to any city in any country in 
Christendom, and I '11 show you a man walk up the 
steps of his church on Sunday who thanks God that 
he 's better than his neighbor. But you need n't go 
so far if you don't want to. I reckon if I could see 
myself, I might show symptoms of it occasionally. 
Sis here thanks God daily that she is better than 
that Barnes girl who cut her out of Amos Alexander. 
Now, don't you deny it, for you know it's gospel 
truth ! And that book is reliable on lots of other 



6 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

things. Take marriage, for instance. It is just as 
natural for men and women to mate at the proper 
time, as it is for steers to shed in the spring. But 
there 's no necessity of making all this fuss about 
it. The Bible way discounts all these modern meth 
ods. ' He took unto himself a wife ' is the way it 
describes such events. But now such an occurrence 
has to be announced, months in advance. And after 
the wedding is over, in less than a year sometimes, 
they are glad to sneak off and get the bond dissolved 
in some divorce court, like I did with my second 
wife." 

All of us about the ranch, including Miss Jean, 
knew that the old ranchero's views on matrimony 
could be obtained by leading up to the question, or 
differing, as occasion required. So, just to hear him 
talk on his favorite theme, I said : " Uncle Lance, 
you must recollect this is a different generation. 
Now, I 've read books " 

" So have I. But it 's different in real life. Now, 
in those novels you have read, the poor devil is 
nearly worried to death for fear he '11 not get her. 
There 's a hundred things happens ; he 's thrown 
off the scent one day and cuts it again the next, 
and one evening he 's in a heaven of bliss and before 
the dance ends a rival looms up and there 's hell 
to pay, excuse me, Sis, but he gets her in the 
end. And that 's the way it goes in the books. But 
getting down to actual cases when the money 's 
on the table and the game 's rolling it 's as simple 



LANCE LOVELACE 7 

as picking a sire and a dam to raise a race horse. 
When they 're both willing, it don't require any ex 
pert to see it a one-eyed or a blind man can tell 
the symptoms. Now, when any of you boys get into 
that fix, get it over with as soon as possible." 

" From the drift of your remarks," said June 
Deweese very innocently, " why would n't it be a 
good idea to go back to the old method of letting 
the parents make the matches ? " 

" Yes ; it would be a good idea. How in the 
name of common sense could you expect young sap- 
heads like you boys to understand anything about 
a woman ? I know what I 'm talking about. A 
single woman never shows her true colors, but con 
ceals her imperfections. The average man is not to 
be blamed if he fails to see through her smiles and 
Sunday humor. Now, I was forty when I married 
the second time, and forty-five the last whirl. Looks 
like I 'd a-had some little sense, now, don't it ? But 
I did n't. No, I did n't have any more show than a 
snowball in Sis, had n't you better retire. You 're 
not interested in my talk to these boys. Well, if 
ever any of you want to get married you have my 
consent. But you 'd better get my opinion on her 
dimples when you do. Now, with my sixty odd 
years, I 'm worth listening to. I can take a cool, 
dispassionate view of a woman now, and pick every 
good point about her, just as if she was a cow horse 
that I was buying for my own saddle." 

Miss Jean, who had a ready tongue for repartee, 



8 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

took advantage of the first opportunity to remark : 
" Do you know, brother, matrimony is a subject 
that I always enjoy hearing discussed by such an 
oracle as yourself. But did it never occur to you 
what an unjust thing it was of Providence to reveal 
so much to your wisdom and conceal the same from 
us babes ?" 

It took some little time for the gentle reproof to 
take effect, but Uncle Lance had an easy faculty of 
evading a question when it was contrary to his own 
views. " Speaking of the wisdom of babes," said he, 
" reminds me of what Felix York, an old '36 com 
rade of mine, once said. He had caught the gold 
fever in '49, and nothing would do but he and some 
others must go to California. The party went up 
to Independence, Missouri, where they got into an 
overland emigrant train, bound for the land of gold. 
But it seems before starting, Senator Benton had 
made a speech in that town, in which he made the 
prophecy that one day there would be a railroad con 
necting the Missouri Kiver with the Pacific Ocean. 
Felix told me this only a few years ago. But he 
said that all the teamsters made the prediction a 
byword. When, crossing some of the mountain 
ranges, the train halted to let the oxen blow, one 
bull-whacker would say to another : ' Well, I 'd like 
to see old Tom Benton get his railroad over this 
mountain.' When Felix told me this he said 
' There 's a railroad to-day crosses those same moun 
tain passes over which we forty-niners whacked our 



LANCE LOVELACE 9 

bulls. And to think I was a grown man and had 
no more sense or foresight than a little baby 
blinkin' its eyes in the sun.' ' 

With years at Las Palomas, I learned to like the 
old ranchero. There was something of the strong, 
primitive man about him which compelled a youth 
of my years to listen to his counsel. His confidence 
in me was a compliment which I appreciate to this 
day. When I had been in his employ hardly two 
years, an incident occurred which, though only one 
of many similar acts cementing our long friendship, 
tested his trust. 

One morning just as he was on the point of 
starting on horseback to the county seat to pay his 
taxes, a Mexican arrived at the ranch and announced 
that he had seen a large band of javalina on the 
border of the chaparral up the river. Uncle Lance 
had promised his taxes by a certain date, but he 
was a true sportsman and owned a fine pack of 
hounds ; moreover, the peccary is a migratory ani 
mal and does not wait upon the pleasure of the 
hunter. As I rode out from the corrals to learn 
what had brought the vaquero with such haste, the 
old ranchero cried, " Here, Tom, you ']! have to go 
to the county seat. Buckle this money belt under 
your shirt, and if you lack enough gold to cover the 
taxes, you'll find silver here in my saddle-bags. 
Blow the horn, boys, and get the guns. Lead the 
way, Pancho. And say, Tom, better leave the road 
after crossing the Sordo, and strike through that 



10 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

mesquite country," he called back as he swung into 
the saddle and started, leaving me a sixty-mile ride 
in his stead. His warning to leave the road after 
crossing the creek was timely, for a ranchman had 
been robbed by bandits on that road the month be 
fore. But I made the ride in safety before sunset, 
paying the taxes, amounting to over a thousand 
dollars. 

During all our acquaintance, extending over a 
period of twenty years, Lance Lovelace was a con 
stant revelation to me, for he was original in all 
things. Knowing no precedent, he recognized none 
which had not the approval of his own conscience. 
Where others were content to follow, he blazed his 
own pathways immaterial to him whether they 
were followed by others or even noticed. In his 
business relations and in his own way, he was exact 
himself and likewise exacting of others. Some there 
are who might criticise him for an episode which 
occurred about four years after my advent at Las 
Palomas. 

Mr. Whitley Booth, a younger man and a brother- 
in-law of the old ranchero by his first wife, rode into 
the ranch one evening, evidently on important busi 
ness. He was not a frequent caller, for he was also 
a ranchman, living about forty miles north and west 
on the Frio River, but was in the habit of bringing 
his family down to the Nueces about twice a year 
for a visit of from ten days to two weeks' duration. 
But this time, though we had been expecting the 



LANCE LOVELACE 11 

family for some little time, he came alone, remained 
over night, and at breakfast ordered his horse, as if 
expecting to return at once. The two ranchmen 
were holding a conference in the sitting-room when 
a Mexican boy came to me at the corrals and said I 
was wanted in the house. On my presenting myself, 
my employer said : " Tom, I want you as a witness 
to a business transaction. I 'm lending Whit, here, 
a thousand dollars, and as we have never taken any 
notes between us, I merely want you as a witness. 
Go into my room, please, and bring out, from under 
my bed, one of those largest bags of silver." 

The door was unlocked, and there, under the 
ranchero's bed, dust-covered, were possibly a dozen 
sacks of silver. Finding one tagged with the re 
quired amount, I brought it out and laid it on the 
table between the two men. But on my return I 
noticed Uncle Lance had turned his chair from the 
table and was gazing out of the window, apparently 
absorbed in thought. I saw at a glance that he was 
gazing into the past, for I had become used to these 
reveries on his part. I had not been excused, and 
an embarrassing silence ensued, which was only 
broken as he looked over his shoulder and said: 
" There it is, Whit ; count it if you want to." 

But Mr. Booth, knowing the oddities of Uncle 
Lance, hesitated. " Well why Look here, 
Lance. If you have any reason for not wanting to 
loan me this amount, why, say so." 

" There 's the money, Whit ; take it if you want 



12 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

to. It '11 pay for the hundred cows you are figuring 
on buying. But I was just thinking : can two men 
at our time of life, who have always been friends, 
afford to take the risk of letting a business trans 
action like this possibly make us enemies? You 
know I started poor here, and what I have made 
and saved is the work of my lifetime. You are wel 
come to the money, but if anything should happen 
that you did n't repay me, you know I would n't feel 
right towards you. It 's probably my years that does 
it, but now, I always look forward to the visits of 
your family, and Jean and I always enjoy our visits 
at your ranch. I think we 'd be two old fools to 
allow anything to break up those pleasant relations." 
Uncle Lance turned in his chair, and, looking into 
the downcast countenance of Mr. Booth, continued : 
" Do you know, Whit, that youngest girl of yours 
reminds me of her aunt, my own Mary, in a hun 
dred ways. I just love to have your girls tear around 
this old ranch they seem to give me back certain 
glimpses of my youth that are priceless to an old 
man." 

" That '11 do, Lance," said Mr. Booth, rising 
and extending his hand. " I don't want the money 
now. Your view of the matter is right, and our 
friendship is worth more than a thousand cattle to 
me. Lizzie and the girls were anxious to come with 
me, and I '11 go right back and send them down." 



CHAPTER II 
SHEPHERD'S FERRY 

WITHIN a few months after my arrival at Las Palo- 
mas, there was a dance at Shepherd's Ferry. There 
was no necessity for an invitation to such local 
meets ; old and young alike were expected and wel 
come, and a dance naturally drained the sparsely 
settled community of its inhabitants from forty to 
fifty miles in every direction. On the Nueces in 
1875, the amusements of the countryside were ex 
tremely limited ; barbecues, tournaments, and dan 
cing covered the social side of ranch life, and whether 
given up or down our home river, or north on the 
Frio, so they were within a day's ride, the white 
element of Las Palomas could always be depended 
on to be present, Uncle Lance in the lead. 

Shepherd's Ferry is somewhat of a misnomer, for 
the water in the river was never over knee-deep to a 
horse, except during freshets. There may have been 
a ferry there once ; but from my advent on the river 
there was nothing but a store, the keeper of which 
also conducted a road-house for the accommodation 
of travelers. There was a fine grove for picnic pur 
poses within easy reach, which was also frequently 
used for camp-meeting purposes. Gnarly old live- 



14 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

oaks spread their branches like a canopy over every 
thing, while the sea-green moss hung from every 
limb and twig, excluding the light and lazily wav 
ing with every vagrant breeze. The fact that these 
grounds were also used for camp-meetings only 
proved the broad toleration of the people. On 
this occasion I distinctly remember that Miss Jean 
introduced a lady to me, who was the wife of an 
Episcopal minister, then visiting on a ranch near 
Oakville, and I danced several times with her and 
found her very amiable. 

On receipt of the news of the approaching dance 
at the ferry, we set the ranch in order. Fortunately, 
under seasonable conditions work on a cattle range 
is never pressing. A programme of work outlined for 
a certain week could easily be postponed a week or 
a fortnight for that matter ; for this was the land of 
" la maiiana," and the white element on Las Palo- 
mas easily adopted the easy-going methods of their 
Mexican neighbors. So on the day everything was 
in readiness. The ranch was a trifle over thirty 
miles from Shepherd's, which was a fair half day's 
ride, but as Miss Jean always traveled by ambu 
lance, it was necessary to give her an early start. 
Las Palomas raised fine horses and mules, and the 
ambulance team for the ranch consisted of four 
mealy - muzzled brown mules, which, being range 
bred, made up in activity what they lacked in size. 

Tiburcio, a trusty Mexican, for years in the em 
ploy of Uncle Lance, was the driver of the ambu- 



SHEPHERD'S FERRY 15 

lance, and at an early morning hour he and his 
mules were on their mettle and impatient to start. 
But Miss Jean had a hundred petty things to look 
after. The lunch enough for a round-up was 
prepared, and was safely stored under the driver's 
seat. Then there were her own personal effects 
and the necessary dressing and tidying, with Uncle 
Lance dogging her at every turn. 

" Now, Sis," said he, " I want you to rig yourself 
out in something sumptuous, because I expect to 
make a killing with you at this dance. I 'm almost 
sure that that Louisiana mule-drover will be there. 
You know you made quite an impression on him 
when he was through here two years ago. Well, I '11 
take a hand in the game this time, and if there 's 
any marry in him, he '11 have to lead trumps. I 'm 
getting tired of having my dear sister trifled with 
by every passing drover. Yes, I am ! The next one 
that hangs around Las Palomas, basking in your 
smiles, has got to declare his intentions whether he 
buys mules or not. Oh, you Ve got a brother, Sis, 
that '11 look out for you. But you must play your 
part. Now, if that mule-buyer 's there, shall I " 

" Why, certainly, brother, invite him to the 
ranch," replied Miss Jean, as she busied herself 
with the preparations. " It 's so kind of you to look 
after me. I was listening to every word you said, 
and I 've got my best bib and tucker in that hand 
box. And just you watch me dazzle that Mr. Mule- 
buyer. Strange you did n't tell me sooner about 



1G A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

his being in the country. Here, take these boxes 
out to the ambulance. And, say, I put in the mid 
dle-sized coffee pot, and do you think two packages 
of ground coffee will be enough ? All right, then. 
Now, where 's my gloves ? " 

We were all dancing attendance in getting the 
ambulance off, but Uncle Lance never relaxed his 
tormenting. " Come, now, hurry up," said he, as 
Jean and himself led the way to the gate where 
the conveyance stood waiting ; " for I want you to 
look your best this evening, and you'll be all tired 
out if you don't get a good rest before the dance 
begins. Now, in case the mule-buyer don't show 
up, how about Sim Oliver ? You see, I can put in 
a good word there just as easily as not. Of course, 
he 's a widower like myself, but you 're no spring 
pullet you would n't class among the buds be 
sides Sim branded eleven hundred calves last year. 
And the very last time I was talking to him, he al 
lowed he 'd crowd thirteen hundred close this year 
big calf crop, you see. Now, just why he should 
go to the trouble to tell me all this, unless he had 
his eye on you, is one too many for me. But if you 
want me to cut him out of your string of eligibles, 
say the word, and I '11 chouse him out. You just bet, 
little girl, whoever wins you has got to score right. 
Great Scott ! but you have good taste in selecting 
perfumery. Um-ee ! it makes me half drunk to 
walk alongside of you. Be sure and put some of 
that ointment on your kerchief when you get there." 



SHEPHERD'S FERRY 17 

" Really," said Miss Jean, as they reached the 
ambulance, " I wish you had made a little memo 
randum of what I 'm expected to do I 'm all in 
a flutter this morning. You see, without your help 
my case is hopeless. But I think I '11 try for the 
mule-buyer. I 'm getting tired looking at these slab- 
sided cowmen. Now, just look at those mules 
have n't had a harness on in a month. And Tibur- 
cio can't hold four of them, nohow. Lance, it looks 
like you 'd send one of the boys to drive me down 
to the ferry." 

" Why, Lord love you, girl, those mules are as 
gentle as kittens ; and you don't suppose I 'm going 
to put some gringo over a veteran like Tiburcio. 
Why, that old boy used to drive for Santa Anna 
during the invasion in '36. Besides, I 'm sending 
Theodore and Glenn on horseback as a bodyguard. 
Las Palomas is putting her best foot forward this 
morning in giving you a stylish turnout, with out 
riders in their Sunday livery. And those two boys 
are the best ropers on the ranch, so if the mules 
run off just give one of your long, keen screams, 
and the boys will rope and hog-tie every mule in 
the team. Get in now and don't make any faces 
about it." 

It was pettishness and not timidity that ailed Jean 
Lovelace, for a pioneer woman like herself had of 
course no fear of horse-flesh. But the team was 
acting in a manner to unnerve an ordinary woman. 
With me clinging to the bits of the leaders, and 



18 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

a man each holding the wheelers, as they pawed 
the ground and surged about in their creaking har 
ness, they were anything but gentle ; but Miss Jean 
proudly took her seat ; Tiburcio fingered the reins 
in placid contentment ; there was a parting volley of 
admonitions from brother and sister the latter was 
telling us where we would find our white shirts 
when Uncle Lance signaled to us ; and we sprang 
away from the team. The ambulance gave a lurch 
forward, as the mules started on a run, but Tibur 
cio dexterously threw them on to a heavy bed of 
sand, poured the whip into them as they labored 
through it ; they crossed the sand bed, Glenn Gal 
lup and Theodore Quayle, riding at their heads, 
pointed the team into the road, and they were off. 
The rest of us busied ourselves getting up saddle 
horses and dressing for the occasion. In the latter 
we had no little trouble, for dress occasions like 
this were rare with us. Miss Jean had been thought 
ful enough to lay our clothes out, but there was a 
busy borrowing of collars and collar buttons, and 
a blacking of boots which made the sweat stand 
out on our foreheads in beads. After we were 
dressed and ready to start, Uncle Lance could not 
be induced to depart from his usual custom, and 
wear his trousers outside his boots. Then we had 
to pull the boots off and polish them clear up to 
the ears in order to make him presentable. But we 
were in no particular hurry about starting, as we 
expected to cut across the country and would over- 



SHEPHERD'S FERRY 19 

take the ambulance at the mouth of the Arroyo 
Seco in time for the noonday lunch. There were 
six in our party, consisting of Dan Happersett, 
Aaron Scales, John Cotton, June Deweese, Uncle 
Lance, and myself. With the exception of Deweese, 
who was nearly twenty-five years old, the remainder 
of the boys on the ranch were young fellows, sev 
eral of whom besides myself had not yet attained 
their majority. On ranch work, in the absence of 
our employer, June was recognized as the segundo 
of Los Palomas, owing to his age and his long em 
ployment on the ranch. He was a trustworthy man, 
and we younger lads entertained no envy towards 
him. 

It was about nine o'clock when we mounted our 
horses and started. We jollied along in a party, or 
separated into pairs in cross-country riding, cover 
ing about seven miles an hour. " I remember," 
said Uncle Lance, as we were riding in a group, 
" the first time I was ever at Shepherd's Ferry. We 
had been down the river on a cow hunt for about 
three weeks and had run out of bacon. We had 
been eating beef, and venison, and antelope for a 
week until it didn't taste right any longer, so I 
sent the outfit on ahead and rode down to the store 
in the hope of getting a piece of bacon. Shepherd 
had just established the place at the time, and when 
I asked him if he had any bacon, he said he had. 
' But is it good ? ' I inquired, and before he could 
reply an eight-year-old boy of his stepped between 



20 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

us, and throwing back his tow head, looked up into 
my face and said : * Mister, it 's a little the best I 
ever tasted.' " 

"Now, June," said Uncle Lance, as we rode along, 
" I want you to let Henry Annear's wife strictly 
alone to-night. You know what a stink it raised all 
along the river, just because you danced with her 
once, last San Jacinto day. Of course, Henry made 
a fool of himself by trying to borrow a six-shooter 
and otherwise getting on the prod. And I '11 admit 
that it don't take the best of eyesight to see that his 
wife to-day thinks more of your old boot than she 
does of Annear's wedding suit, yet her husband 
will be the last man to know it. No man can figure 
to a certainty on a woman. Three guesses is not 
enough, for she will and she won't, and she '11 strad 
dle the question or take the fence, and when you 
put a copper on her to win, she loses. God made 
them just that way, and I don't want to criticise 
His handiwork. But if my name is Lance Love 
lace, and I 'm sixty-odd years old, and this a chest 
nut horse that I 'm riding, then Henry Annear's 
wife is an unhappy woman. But that fact, son, 
don't give you any license to stir up trouble be 
tween man and wife. Now, remember, I 've warned 
you not to dance, speak to, or even notice her on 
this occasion. The chances are that that locoed 
fool will come heeled this time, and if you give him 
any excuse, he may burn a little powder." 

June promised to keep on his good behavior, 



SHEPHERD'S FERRY 21 

saying : " That 's just what I 've made up my mind 
to do. But look'ee here : Suppose he goes on the 
war path, you can't expect me to show the white 
feather, nor let him run any sandys over me. I 
loved his wife once and am not ashamed of it, and 
he knows it. And much as I want to obey you, 
Uncle Lance, if he attempts to stand up a bluff on 
me, just as sure as hell 's hot there '11 be a strange 
face or two in heaven." 

I was a new man on the ranch and unacquainted 
with the facts, so shortly afterwards I managed to 
drop to the rear with Dan Happersett, and got the 
particulars. It seems that June and Mrs. Annear 
had not only been sweethearts, but that they had 
been engaged, and that the engagement had been 
broken within a month of the day set for their wed 
ding, and that she had married Annear on a three 
weeks' acquaintance. Little wonder Uncle Lance 
took occasion to read the riot act to his segundo in 
the interests of peace. This was all news to me, 
but secretly I wished June courage and a good aim 
if it ever came to a show-down between them. 

We reached the Arroyo Seco by high noon, and 
found the ambulance in camp and the coffee pot 
boiling. Under the direction of Miss Jean, Tibur- 
cio had removed the seats from the conveyance, so 
as to afford seating capacity for over half our num 
ber. The lunch was spread under an old live-oak 
on the bank of the Nueces, making a cosy camp. 
Miss Jean had the happy knack of a good hostess, 



22 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

our twenty-mile ride had whetted our appetites, 
and we did ample justice to her tempting spread. 
After luncheon was over and while the team was 
being harnessed in, I noticed Miss Jean enticing 
Deweese off on one side, where the two held a whis 
pered conversation, seated on an old fallen tree. 
As they returned, June was promising something 
which she had asked of him. And if there was 
ever a woman lived who could exact a promise that 
would be respected, Jean Lovelace was that woman ; 
for she was like an elder sister to us all. 

In starting, the ambulance took the lead as be 
fore, and near the middle of the afternoon we 
reached the ferry. The merry-makers were assem 
bling from every quarter, and on our arrival possi 
bly a hundred had come, which number was doubled 
by the time the festivities began. We turned our 
saddle and work stock into a small pasture, and gave 
ourselves over to the fast-gathering crowd. I was 
delighted to see that Miss Jean and Uncle Lance 
were accorded a warm welcome by every one, for I 
was somewhat of a stray on this new range. But 
when it became known that I was a recent addition 
to Las Paloraas, the welcome was extended to me, 
which I duly appreciated. 

The store and hostelry did a rushing business dur 
ing the evening hours, for the dance did not begin 
until seven. A Mexican orchestra, consisting of a 
violin, an Italian harp, and two guitars, had come 
up from Oakville to furnish the music for the occa- 



SHEPHERD'S FERRY 23 

sion. Just before the dance commenced, I noticed 
Uncle Lance greet a late arrival, and on my inquir 
ing of June who he might be, I learned that the man 
was Captain Frank Byler from Lagarto, the drover 
Uncle Lance had been teasing Miss Jean about in 
the morning, and a man, as I learned later, who drove 
herds of horses north on the trail during the sum 
mer and during the winter drove mules and horses 
to Louisiana, for sale among the planters. Captain 
Byler was a good-looking, middle-aged fellow, and 
I made up my mind at once that he was due to 
rank as the lion of the evening among the ladies. 

It is useless to describe this night of innocent 
revelry. It was a rustic community, and the people 
assembled were, with few exceptions, purely pas 
toral. There may have been earnest vows spoken 
under those spreading oaks who knows ? But if 
there were, the retentive ear which listened, and 
the cautious tongue which spake the vows, had no 
intention of having their confidences profaned on 
this page. Yet it was a night long to be remem 
bered. Timid lovers sat apart, oblivious to the gaze 
of the merry revelers. Matrons and maidens vied 
with each other in affability to the sterner sex. I 
had a most enjoyable time. 

I spoke Spanish well, and made it a point to cul 
tivate the acquaintance of the leader of the orches 
tra. Qn his learning that I also played the violin, 
he promptly invited me to play a certain new waltz 
which he was desirous of learning. But I had no 



24 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

sooner taken the violin in my hand than the lazy 
rascal lighted a cigarette and strolled away, absent 
ing himself for nearly an hour. But I was familiar 
with the simple dance music of the country, and 
played everything that was called for. My talent 
was quite a revelation to the boys of our ranch, and 
especially to the owner and mistress of Las Palo- 
mas. The latter had me play several old Colorado 
River favorites of hers, and I noticed that when she 
had the dashing Captain Byler for her partner, my 
waltzes seemed never long enough to suit her. 

After I had been relieved, Miss Jean introduced 
me to a number of nice girls, and for the remainder 
of the evening I had no lack of partners. But there 
was one girl there whom I had not been introduced 
to, who always avoided my glance when I looked 
at her, but who, when we were in the same set and 
I squeezed her hand, had blushed just too lovely. 
When that dance was over, I went to Miss Jean 
for an introduction, but she did not know her, so I 
appealed to Uncle Lance, for I knew he could give 
the birth date of every girl present. We took a 
stroll through the crowd, and when I described her 
by her big eyes, he said in a voice so loud that I 
felt sure she must hear : " Why, certainly, I know 
her. That 's Esther McLeod. I Ve trotted her on 
my knee a hundred times. She 's the youngest girl 
of old man Donald McLeod who used to ranch ovei 
on the mouth of the San Miguel, north on the Frio. 
Yes, I '11 give you an interslaption." Then in a 



SHEPHERD'S FERRY 25 

subdued tone : " And if you can drop your rope 
on her, son, tie her good and fast, for she 's good 
stock." 

I was made acquainted as his latest adopted son, 
and inferred the old ranchero's approbation by 
many a poke in the ribs from him in the intervals 
between dances ; for Esther and I danced every 
dance together until dawn. No one could charge 
me with neglect or inattention, for I close-herded 
her like a hired hand. She mellowed nicely towards 
me after the ice was broken, and with the limited 
time at my disposal, I made hay. When the dance 
broke up with the first signs of day, I saddled her 
horse and assisted her to mount, when I received 
the cutest little invitation, * if ever I happened over 
on the San Miguel, to try and call.' Instead of beat 
ing about the bush, I assured her bluntly that if 
she ever saw me on Miguel Creek, it would be in 
tentional ; for I should have made the ride purely 
to see her. She blushed again in a way which sent 
a thrill through me. But on the Nueces in '75, if 
a fellow took a fancy to a girl there was no harm 
in showing it or telling her so. 

I had been so absorbed during the latter part of 
the night that I had paid little attention to the rest 
of the Las Palomas outfit, though I occasionally 
caught sight of Miss Jean and the drover, gener 
ally dancing, sometimes promenading, and once had 
a glimpse of them tete-a-tete on a rustic settee in a 
secluded corner. Our employer seldom danced, but 



26 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

kept his eye on June Deweese in the interests of 
peace, for Annear and his wife were both present. 
Once while Esther and I were missing a dance over 
some light refreshment, I had occasion to watch 
June as he and Annear danced in the same set. I 
thought the latter acted rather surly, though De 
weese was the acme of geniality, and was apparently 
having the time of his life as he tripped through the 
mazes of the dance. Had I not known of the deadly 
enmity existing between them, I could never. have 
suspected anything but friendship, he was acting the 
part so perfectly. But then I knew he had given 
his plighted word to the master and mistress, and 
nothing but an insult or indignity could tempt him 
to break it. 

On the return trip, we got the ambulance off be 
fore sunrise, expecting to halt and breakfast again 
at the Arroyo Seco. Aaron Scales and Dan Happer- 
sett acted as couriers to Miss Jean's conveyance, 
while the rest dallied behind, for there was quite a 
cavalcade of young folks going a distance our way. 
This gave Uncle Lance a splendid chance to quiz 
the girls in the party. I was riding with a Miss 
Wilson from Ramirena, who had come up to make 
a visit at a near-by ranch and incidentally attend 
the dance at Shepherd's. I admit that I was a little 
too much absorbed over another girl to be very en 
tertaining, but Uncle Lance helped out by joining 
us. " Nice morning overhead, Miss Wilson," said 
he, on riding up. " Say, I 've waited just as long as 




WE GOT THE AMBULANCE OFF BEFORE SUNRISE 



SHEPHERD'S FERRY 27 

I 'm going to for that invitation to your wedding 
which you promised me last summer. Now, I don't 
know so much about the young men down about 
Ramirena, but when I was a youngster back on the 
Colorado, when a boy loved a girl he married her, 
whether it was Friday or Monday, rain or shine. 
I 'm getting tired of being put off with promises. 
Why, actually, I have n't been to a wedding in 
three years. What are we coming to ? " 

On reaching the road where Miss Wilson and 
her party separated from us, Uncle Lance returned 
to the charge : " Now, no matter how busy I am 
when I get your invitation, I don't care if the irons 
are in the fire and the cattle in the corral, I '11 
drown the fire and turn the cows out. And if Las 
Palomas has a horse that '11 carry me, I '11 merely 
touch the high places in coming. And when I get 
there I 'm willing to do anything, give the bride 
away, say grace, or carve the turkey. And what 's 
more, I never kissed a bride in my life that did n't 
have good luck. Tell your pa you saw me. Good-by, 
dear." 

On overtaking the ambulance in camp, our party 
included about twenty, several of whom were young 
ladies ; but Miss Jean insisted that every one re 
main for breakfast, assuring them that she had 
abundance for all. After the impromptu meal was 
disposed of, we bade our adieus and separated to 
the four quarters. Before we had gone far, Uncle 
Lance rode alongside of me and said : " Tom, why 



28 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

did n't you tell me you was a fiddler ? God knows 
you 're lazy enough to be a good one, and you ought 
to be good on a bee course. But what made me 
warm to you last night was the way you built to 
Esther McLeod. Son, you set her cush about right. 
If you can hold sight on a herd of beeves on a bad 
night like you did her, you '11 be a foreman some 
day. And she 's not only good blood herself, but 
she 's got cattle and land. Old man Donald, her 
father, was killed in the Confederate army. He was 
an honest Scotchman who kept Sunday and every 
thing else he could lay his hands on. In all my 
travels I never met a man who could offer a longer 
prayer or take a bigger drink of whiskey. I re 
member the first time I ever saw him. He was 
serving on the grand jury, and I was a witness in 
a cattle-stealing case. He was a stranger to me, 
and we had just sat down at the same table at a 
hotel for dinner. We were on the point of help 
ing ourselves, when the old Scot arose and struck 
the table a blow that made the dishes rattle. ' You 
heathens,' said he, ' will you partake of the bounty of 
your Heavenly Father without returning, thanks?' 
We laid down our knives and forks like boys 
caught in a watermelon patch, and the old man 
asked a blessing. I 've been at his house often. He 
was a good man, but Secession caught him and he 
never came back. So, Quirk, you see, a son-in-law 
will be a handy man in the family, and with the 
start you made last night I hope for good results." 



SHEPHERD'S FERRY 29 

The other boys seemed to enjoy my embarrass 
ment, but I said nothing in reply, being a new man 
with the outfit. We reached the ranch an hour 
before noon, two hours in advance of the ambu 
lance; and the sleeping we did until sunrise the 
next morning required no lullaby. 



CHAPTER III 
LAS PALOMAS 

THERE is something about those large ranches of 
southern Texas that reminds one of the old feudal 
system. The pathetic attachment to the soil of 
those born to certain Spanish land grants can only 
be compared to the European immigrant when for 
the last time he looks on the land of his birth 
before sailing. Of all this Las Palomas was typ 
ical. In the course of time several such grants had 
been absorbed into its baronial acres. But it had 
always been the policy of Uncle Lance never to dis 
turb the Mexican population ; rather he encouraged 
them to remain in his service. Thus had sprung up 
around Las Palomas ranch a little Mexican com 
munity numbering about a dozen families, who 
lived iujacals close to the main ranch buildings. 
They were simple people, and rendered their new 
master a feudal loyalty. There were also several 
small ranchites located on the land, where, under 
the Mexican regime, there had been pretentious 
adobe buildings. A number of families still resided 
at these deserted ranches, content in cultivating 
small fields or looking after flocks of goats and a 
few head of cattle, paying no rental save a service 
tenure to the new owner. 



LAS PALOMAS 31 

The customs of these Mexican people were simple 
and primitive. They blindly accepted the religious 
teachings imposed with fire and sword by the Span 
ish conquerors upon their ancestors. A padre visited 
them yearly, christening the babes, marrying the 
youth, shriving the penitent, and saying masses for 
the repose of the souls of the departed. Their social 
customs were in many respects unique. For in 
stance, in courtship a young man was never allowed 
in the presence of his inamorata, unless in company 
of others, or under the eye of a chaperon. Propo 
sals, even among the nearest of neighbors or most 
intimate of friends, were always made in writing, 
usually by the father of the young man to the par 
ents of the girl, but in the absence of such, by a 
godfather or padrino. Fifteen days was the term 
allowed for a reply, and no matter how desirable 
the match might be, it was not accounted good taste 
to answer before the last day. The owner of Las 
Palomas was frequently called upon to act as pa 
drino for his people, and so successful had he always 
been that the vaqueros on his ranch preferred his 
services to those of their own fathers. There was 
scarcely a vaquero at the home ranch but, in time 
past, had invoked his good offices in this matter, 
and he had come to be looked on as their patron 
saint. 

The month of September was usually the begin 
ning of the branding season at Las Palomas. In 
conducting this work, Uncle Lance was the leader, 



32 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

and with the white element already enumerated, 
there were twelve to fifteen vaqueros included in 
the branding outfit. The dance at Shepherd's had 
delayed the beginning of active operations, and a 
large calf crop, to say nothing of horse and mule 
colts, now demanded our attention and promised 
several months' work. The year before, Las Palo- 
mas had branded over four thousand calves, and 
the range was now dotted with the crop, awaiting 
the iron stamp of ownership. 

The range was an open one at the time, compel 
ling us to work far beyond the limits of our em 
ployer's land. Fortified with our own commissary, 
and with six to eight horses apiece in our mount, 
we scoured the country for a radius of fifty miles. 
When approaching another range, it was our cus 
tom to send a courier in advance to inquire of the 
ranchero when it would be convenient for him to 
give us a rodeo. A day would be set, when our out 
fit and the vaqueros of that range rounded up all 
the cattle watering at given points. Then we cut 
out the Las Palomas brand, and held them under 
herd or started them for the home ranch, where 
the calves were to be branded. In this manner 
we visited all the adjoining ranches, taking over a 
month to make the circuit of the ranges. 

In making the tour, the first range we worked 
was that of rancho Santa Maria, south of our range 
and on the head of Tarancalous Creek. On ap 
proaching the ranch, as was customary, we prepared 



LAS PALOMAS 33 

to encamp and ask for a rodeo. But in the choice 
of a vaquero to be dispatched on this mission, a 
spirited rivalry sprang up. When Uncle Lance 
learned that the rivalry amongst the vaqueros was 
meant to embarrass Enrique Lopez, who was oso to 
Anita, the pretty daughter of the corporal of Santa 
Maria, his matchmaking instincts came to the fore. 
Calling Enrique to one side, he made the vaquero 
confess that he had been playing for the favor of 
the senorita at Santa Maria. Then he dispatched 
Enrique on the mission, bidding him carry the 
choicest compliments of Las Palomas to every Don 
and Dona of Santa Maria. And Enrique was quite 
capable of adding a few embellishments to the old 
matchmaker's extravagant flatteries. 

Enrique was in camp next morning, but at what 
hour of the night he had returned is unknown. The 
rodeo had been granted for the following day; 
there was a pressing invitation to Don Lance 
unless he was willing to offend to spend the idle 
day as the guest of Don Mateo. Enrique elabor 
ated the invitation with a thousand adornments. 
But the owner of Las Palomas had lived nearly 
forty years among the Spanish- American people on 
the Nueces, and knew how to make allowances for 
the exuberance of the Latin tongue. There was no 
telling to what extent Enrique could have kept on 
delivering messages, but to his employer he was 
avoiding the issue. 

"But did you get to see Anita?" interrupted 



34 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

Uncle Lance. Yes, he had seen her, but that was 
about all. Did not Don Lance know the customs 
among the Castilians ? There was her mother ever 
present, or if she must absent herself, there was a 
bevy of tias comadres surrounding her, until the 
Dona Anita dare not even raise her eyes to meet 
his. " To perdition with such customs, no ? " The 
freedom of a cow camp is a splendid opportunity to 
relieve one's mind upon prevailing injustices. 

" Don't fret your cattle so early in the morning, 
son," admonished the wary matchmaker. " I 've 
handled worse cases than this before. You Mexi 
cans are sticklers on customs, and we must deal 
with our neighbors carefully. Before I show my 
hand in this, there 's just one thing I want to know 
is the girl willing ? Whenever you can satisfy 
me on that point, Enrique, just call on the old man. 
But before that I won't stir a step. You remember 
what a time I had over Tiburcio's Juan that 's so, 
you were too young then. "Well, June here remem 
bers it. Why, the girl just cut up shamefully. Called 
Juan an Indian peon, and bragged about her Cas- 
tilian family until you 'd have supposed she was a 
princess of the blood royal. Why, it took her 
parents and myself a whole day to bring the girl 
around to take a sensible view of matters. On my 
soul, except that I did n't want to acknowledge 
defeat, I felt a dozen times like telling her to go 
straight up. And when she did marry you, she was 
as happy as a lark was n't she, Juan ? But I like 



LAS PALOMAS 35 

to have the thing over with in well, say half 
an hour's time. Then we can have refreshments, 
and smoke, and discuss the prospects of the young 
couple." 

Uncle Lance's question was hard to answer. En 
rique had known the girl for several years, had 
danced with her on many a feast day, and never lost 
an opportunity to whisper the old, old story in her 
willing ear. Others had done the like, but the dark- 
eyed senorita is an adept in the art of coquetry, 
and there you are. But Enrique swore a great oath 
he would know. Yes, he would. He would lay siege 
to her as he had never done before. He would be 
come un oso grande. Just wait until the branding 
was over and the fiestas of the Christmas season 
were on, and watch him dog her every step until 
he received her signal of surrender. Witness, all 
the saints, this vow of Enrique Lopez, that the 
Dona Anita should have no peace of mind, no, not 
for one little minute, until she had made a com 
plete capitulation. Then Don Lance, the padrino of 
Las Palomas, would at once write the letter which 
would command the hand of the corporal's daugh 
ter. Who could refuse such a request, and what 
was a daughter of Santa Maria compared to a son 
of Las Palomas ? 

Tarancalous Creek ran almost due east, and 
rancho Santa Maria was located near its source, 
depending more on its wells for water supply than 
on the stream which only flowed for a few months 



36 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

during the year. Where the watering facilities were 
so limited the rodeo was an easy matter. A num 
ber of small round-ups at each established watering 
point, a swift cutting out of everything bearing the 
Las Palornas brand, and we moved on to the next 
rodeo, for we had an abundance of help at Santa 
Maria. The work was finished by the middle of the 
afternoon. After sending, under five or six men, 
our cut of several hundred cattle westward on our 
course, our outfit rode into rancho Santa Maria 
proper to pay our respects. Our wagon had pro 
vided an abundant dinner for our assistants and 
ourselves ; but it would have been, in Mexican eti 
quette, extremely rude on our part not to visit the 
rancho and partake of a cup of coffee and a cigar 
ette, thanking the ranchero on parting for his kind 
ness in granting us the rodeo. 

So when the last round-up was reached, Don 
Mateo and Uncle Lance turned the work over to 
their corporals, and in advance rode up to Santa 
Maria. The vaqueros of our ranch were anxious 
to visit the rancho, so it devolved on the white ele 
ment to take charge of the cut. Being a stranger 
to Santa Maria, I was allowed to accompany our 
segundo, June Deweese, on an introductory visit. 
On arriving at the rancho, the vaqueros scattered 
among thejacals of their amigos, while June and 
myself were welcomed at the casa primero. There 
we found Uncle Lance partaking of refreshment, 
and smoking a cigarette as though he had been 



LAS PALOMAS 37 

born a Senor Don of some ruling hacienda. June 
and I were seated at another table, where we were 
served with coffee, wafers, and home-made cigar 
ettes. This was perfectly in order, but I could hardly 
control myself over the extravagant Spanish our 
employer was using in expressing the amity exist 
ing between Santa Maria and Las Palomas. In 
ordinary conversation, such as cattle and ranch 
affairs, Uncle Lance had a good command of Span 
ish ; but on social and delicate topics some of his 
efforts were ridiculous in the extreme. He was well 
aware of his shortcomings, and frequently appealed 
to me to assist him. As a boy my playmates had 
been Mexican children, so that I not only spoke 
Spanish fluently but could also readily read and 
write it. So it was no surprise to me that, before 
taking our departure, my employer should com 
mand my services as an interpreter in driving an 
entering wedge. He was particular to have me as 
sure our host and hostess of his high regard for them, 
and his hope that in the future even more friendly 
relations might exist between the two ranches. Had 
Santa Maria no young cavalier for the hand of some 
daughter of Las Palomas ? Ah ! there was the true 
bond for future friendships. Well, well, if the soil 
of this rancho was so impoverished, then the sons 
of Las Palomas must take the bit in their teeth 
and come courting to Santa Maria. And let Dona 
Gregoria look well to her daughters, for the young 
men of Las Palomas, true to their race, were not 



38 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

only handsome fellows but ardent lovers, and would 
be hard to refuse. 

After taking our leave and catching up with the 
cattle, we pushed westward for the Ganso, our next 
stream of water. This creek was a tributary to the 
Nueces, and we worked down it several days, or 
until we had nearly a thousand cattle and were 
within thirty miles of home. Turning this cut over 
to June Deweese and a few vaqueros to take in to 
the ranch and brand, the rest of us turned westward 
and struck the Nueces at least fifty miles above 
Las Palomas. For the next few days our dragnet 
took in both sides of the Nueces, and when, on 
reaching the mouth of the Ganso, we were met by 
Deweese and the vaqueros we had another bunch 
of nearly a thousand ready. Dan Happersett was 
dispatched with the second bunch for branding, 
when we swung north to Mr. Booth's ranch on the 
Frio, where we rested a day. But there is little 
recreation on a cow hunt, and we were soon under 
full headway again. By the time we had worked 
down the Frio, opposite headquarters, we had too 
large a herd to carry conveniently, and I was sent 
in home with them, never rejoining the outfit until 
they reached Shepherd's Ferry. This was a dis 
appointment to me, for I had hopes that when 
the outfit worked the range around the mouth of 
San Miguel, I might find some excuse to visit the 
McLeod ranch and see Esther. But after turning 
back up the home river to within twenty miles of 



LAS PALOMAS 39 

the ranch, we again turned southward, covering the 
intervening ranches rapidly until we struck the 
Tarancalous about twenty-five miles east of Santa 
Maria. 

We had spent over thirty days in making this 
circle, gathering over five thousand cattle, about 
one third of which were cows with calves by their 
sides. On the remaining gap in the circle we lost 
two days in waiting for rodeos, or gathering inde 
pendently along the Tarancalous, and, on nearing 
the Santa Maria range, we had nearly fifteen hun 
dred cattle. Our herd passed within plain view of 
the rancho, but we did not turn aside, preferring to 
make a dry camp for the night, some five or six 
miles further on our homeward course. But since 
we had used the majority of our remuda very hard 
that day, Uncle Lance dispatched Enrique and my 
self, with our wagon and saddle horses, by way 
of Santa Maria, to water our saddle stock and re 
fill our kegs for camping purposes. Of course, the 
compliments of our employer to the ranchero of 
Santa Maria went with the remuda and wagon. 

I delivered the compliments and regrets to Don 
Mateo, and asked the permission to water our sad 
dle stock, which was readily granted. This required 
some time, for we had about a hundred and twenty- 
five loose horses with us, and the water had to be 
raised by rope and pulley from the pommel of a saddle 
horse. After watering the team we refilled our kegs, 
and the cook pulled out to overtake the herd, En- 



40 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

rique and I staying to water the remuda. Enrique, 
who was riding the saddle horse, while I emptied 
the buckets as they were hoisted to the surface, 
was evidently killing time. By his dilatory tactics, 
I knew the young rascal was delaying in the hope 
of getting a word with the Dona Anita. But it was 
getting late, and at the rate we were hoisting dark 
ness would overtake us before we could reach the 
herd. So I ordered Enrique to the bucket, while 
I took my own horse and furnished the hoisting 
power. We were making some headway with the 
work, when a party of women, among them the 
Dona Anita, came down to the well to fill vessels 
for house use. 

This may have been all chance and then again 
it may not. But the gallant Enrique now outdid 
himself, filling jar after jar and lifting them to the 
shoulder of the bearer with the utmost zeal and 
amid a profusion of compliments. I was annoyed 
at the interruption in our work, but I could see 
that Enrique was now in the highest heaven of de 
light. The Dona Anita's mother was present, and 
made it her duty to notice that only commonplace 
formalities passed between her daughter and the ar 
dent vaquero. After the jars were all filled, the bevy 
of women started on their return ; but Dona Anita 
managed to drop a few feet to the rear of the pro 
cession, and, looking back, quietly took up one cor 
ner of her mantilla, and with a little movement, 
apparently all innocence, flashed a message back to 




FLASHED A MESSAGE BACK 



LAS PALOMAS 41 

the entranced Enrique. I was aware of the flirtation, 
but before I had made more of it Enrique sprang 
down from the abutment of the well, dragged me 
from my horse, and in an ecstasy of joy, crouching 
behind the abutments, cried : Had I seen the sign ? 
Had I not noticed her token ? Was my brain then 
so befuddled ? Did I not understand the ways of the 
senoritas among his people ? that they always an- 
swered by a wave of the handkerchief, or the man 
tilla ? Ave Maria, Tomas ! Such stupidity ! Why, 
to be sure, they could talk all day with their eyes. 

A setting sun finally ended his confidences, and 
the watering was soon finished, for Enrique lowered 
the bucket in a gallop. On our reaching the herd 
and while we were catching our night horses, Uncle 
Lance strode out to the rope corral, with the in 
quiry, what had delayed us. " Nothing particular," 
I replied, and looked at Enrique, who shrugged his 
shoulders and repeated my answer. "Now, look 
here, you young liars," said the old ranchero ; " the 
wagon has been in camp over an hour, and, admit 
ting it did start before you, you had plenty of time 
to water the saddle stock and overtake it before it 
could possibly reach the herd. I can tell a lie my 
self, but a good one always has some plausibility. 
You rascals were up to some mischief, I '11 war 
rant." 

I had caught out my night horse, and as I led 
him away to saddle up, Uncle Lance, not content 
with my evasive answer, followed me. " Go to En- 



42 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

rique," I whispered ; " he '11 just bubble over at 
a good chance to tell you. Yes ; it was the Dona 
Anita who caused the delay." A smothered chuck 
ling shook the old man's frame, as he sauntered over 
to where Enrique was saddling. As the two led off 
the horse to picket in the gathering dusk, the ran- 
chero had his arm around the vaquero's neck, and 
I felt that the old matchmaker would soon be in 
possession of the facts. A hilarious guffaw that 
reached me as I was picketing my horse announced 
that the story was out, and as the two returned to 
the fire Uncle Lance was slapping Enrique on the 
back at every step and calling him a lucky dog. 
The news spread through the camp like wild-fire, 
even to the vaqueros on night herd, who instantly 
began chanting an old love song. While Enrique 
and I were eating our supper, our employer paced 
backward and forward in meditation like a sentinel 
on picket, and when we had finished our meal, he 
joined us around the fire, inquiring of Enrique how 
soon the demand should be made for the corporal's 
daughter, and was assured that it could not be done 
too soon. " The padre only came once a year," he 
concluded, " and they must be ready." 

" Well, now, this is a pretty pickle," said the old 
matchmaker, as he pulled his gray mustaches ; " there 
is n't pen or paper in the outfit. And then we '11 be 
busy branding on the home range for a month, and 
I can't spare a vaquero a day to carry a letter to 
Santa Maria. And besides, I might not be at home 



LAS PALOMAS 43 

when the reply came. I think I'll just take the 
bull by the horns ; ride back in the morning and 
set these old precedents at defiance, by arrang 
ing the match verbally. I can make the talk that 
this country is Texas now, and that under the new 
regime American customs are in order. That 's 
what I '11 do and I '11 take Tom Quirk with me 
for fear I bog down in my Spanish." 

But several vaqueros, who understood some Eng 
lish, advised Enrique of what the old matchmaker 
proposed to do, when the vaquero threw his hands 
in the air and began sputtering Spanish in terrified 
disapproval. Did not Don Lance know that the 
marriage usages among his people were their most 
cherished customs ? " Oh, yes, son," languidly re 
plied Uncle Lance. " I 'm some strong on the cherish 
myself, but not when it interferes with my plans. 
It strikes me that less than a month ago I heard 
you condemning to perdition certain customs of your 
people. Now, don't get on too high a horse just 
leave it to Tom and me. We may stay a week, but 
when we come back we '11 bring your betrothal with 
us in our vest pockets. There was never a Mexi 
can born who can outhold me on palaver ; and we '11 
eat every chicken on Santa Maria unless they sur 
render." 

As soon as the herd had started for home the 
next morning, Uncle Lance and I returned to Santa 
Maria. We were extended a cordial reception by 
Don Mateo, and after the chronicle of happenings 



44 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

since the two rancheros last met had been reviewed, 
the motive of our sudden return was mentioned. 
By combining the vocabularies of my employer and 
myself, we mentioned our errand as delicately as 
possible, pleading guilty and craving every one's 
pardon for our rudeness in verbally conducting the 
negotiations. To our surprise, for to Mexicans 
customs are as rooted as Faith, Don Mateo took 
no offense and summoned Dona Gregoria. 1 was 
playing a close second to the diplomat of our side 
of the house, and when his Spanish failed him and 
he had recourse to English, it is needless to say 
I handled matters to the best of my ability. The 
Spanish is a musical, passionate language and well 
suited to love making, and though this was my first 
use of it for that purpose, within half an hour we 
had won the ranchero and his wife to our side of 
the question. 

Then, at Don Mateo's orders, the parents of the 
girl were summoned. This involved some little 
delay, which permitted coffee being served, and 
discussion, over the cigarettes, of the commonplace 
matters of the country. There was beginning to be 
a slight demand for cattle to drive to the far north 
on the trails, some thought it was the sign of a big 
development, but neither of the rancheros put much 
confidence in the movement, etc., etc. The corporal 
and his wife suddenly made their appearance, dressed 
in their best, which accounted for the delay, and all 
cattle conversation instantly ceased. Uncle Lance 



LAS PALOMAS 45 

arose and greeted the husky corporal and his timid 
wife with warm cordiality. I extended my greet 
ings to the Mexican foreman, whom I had met at 
the rodeo about a month before. We then resumed 
our seats, but the corporal and his wife remained 
standing, and with an elegant command of his na 
tive tongue Don Mateo informed the couple of our 
mission. They looked at each other in bewilderment. 
Tears came into the wife's eyes. For a moment I 
pitied her. Indeed, the pathetic was not lacking. 
But the hearty corporal reminded his better half 
that her parents, in his interests, had once been 
asked for her hand under similar circumstances, and 
the tears disappeared. Tears are womanly ; and I 
have since seen them shed, under less provocation, 
by fairer-skinned women than this simple, swarthy 
daughter of Mexico. 

It was but natural that the parents of the girl 
should feign surprise and reluctance if they did not 
feel it. The Dona Anita's mother offered several 
trivial objections. Her daughter had never taken 
her into her confidence over any suitor. And did 
Anita really love Enrique Lopez of Las Palomas ? 
Even if she did, could he support her, being but a 
vaquero ? This brought Uncle Lance to the front. 
He had known Enrique since the day of his birth. 
As a five-year-old, and naked as the day he was born, 
had he not ridden a colt at branding time, twice 
around the big corral without being thrown ? At ten, 
had he not thrown himself across a gateway and 



46 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

allowed a cdballada of over two hundred wild range 
horses to jump over his prostrate body as they 
passed in a headlong rush through the gate ? Only 
the year before at branding, when an infuriated 
bull had driven every vaquero out of the corrals, 
did not Enrique mount his horse, and, after baiting 
the bull out into the open, play with him like a 
kitten with a mouse ? And when the bull, tiring, 
attempted to make his escape, who but Enrique had 
lassoed the animal by the fore feet, breaking his 
neck in the throw ? The diplomat of Las Palomas 
dejectedly admitted that the bull was a prize ani 
mal, but could not deny that he himself had joined 
in the plaudits to the daring vaquero. But if there 
were a possible doubt that the Dona Anita did not 
love this son of Las Palomas, then Lance Lovelace 
himself would oppose the union. This was an im 
portant matter. Would Don Mateo be so kind as 
to summon the senorita? 

The senorita came in response to the summons. 
She was a gir ; l of possibly seventeen summers, 
several inches taller than her mother, possessing 
a beautiful complexion with large lustrous eyes. 
There was something fawnlike in her timidity as 
she gazed at those about the table. Dona Gregoria 
broke the news, informing her that the ranchero of 
Las Palomas had asked her hand in marriage for 
Enrique, one of his vaqueros. Did she love the man 
and was she willing to marry him ? For reply the 
girl hid her face in the mantilla of her mother. 



LAS PALOMAS 47 

With commendable tact Dona Gregoria led the 
mother and daughter into another room, from which 
the two elder women soon returned with a favorable 
reply. Uncle Lance arose and assured the corporal 
and his wife that their daughter would receive his 
special care and protection ; that as long as water 
ran and grass grew, Las Palomas would care for 
her own children. 

We accepted an invitation to remain for dinner, 
as several hours had elapsed since our arrival. In 
company with the corporal, I attended to our horses, 
leaving the two rancheros absorbed in a discus 
sion of Texas fever, rumors of which were then 
attracting widespread attention in the north along 
the cattle trails. After dinner we took our leave 
of host and hostess, promising to send Enrique to 
Santa Maria at the earliest opportunity. 

It was a long ride across country to Las Palomas, 
but striking a free gait, unencumbered as we were, 
we covered the country rapidly. I had somewhat 
doubted the old matchmaker's sincerity in making 
this match, but as we rode along he told me of his 
own marriage to Mary Bryan, and the one happy 
year of life which it brought him, mellowing into a 
mood of seriousness which dispelled all doubts. It 
was almost sunset when we sighted in the distance 
the ranch buildings at Las Palomas, and half an 
hour later as we galloped up to assist the herd 
which was nearing the corrals, the old man stood in 
his stirrups and, waving his hat, shouted to his out- 



48 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

fit : " Hurrah for Enrique and the Dona Anita ! " 
And as the last of the cattle entered the corral, a 
rain of lassos settled over the smiling rascal and his 
horse, and we led him in triumph to the house for 
Miss Jean's blessing. 



CHAPTER IV 
CHRISTMAS 

THE branding on the home range was an easy mat 
ter. The cattle were compelled to water from the 
Nueces, so that their range was never over five or 
six miles from the river. There was no occasion 
even to take out the wagon, though we made a one- 
night camp at the mouth of the Ganso, and another 
about midway between the home ranch and Shep 
herd's Ferry, pack mules serving instead of the 
wagon. On the home range, in gathering to brand, 
we never disturbed the mixed cattle, cutting out 
only the cows and calves. On the round-up below 
the Ganso, we had over three thousand cattle in one 
rodeo, finding less than five hundred calves belong 
ing to Las Palomas, the bulk on this particular 
occasion being steer cattle. There had been little 
demand for steers for several seasons and they had 
accumulated until many of them were fine beeves, 
five and six years old. 

When the branding proper was concluded, our 
tally showed nearly fifty-one hundred calves branded 
that season, indicating about twenty thousand cattle 
in the Las Palomas brand. After a week's rest, 
with fresh horses, we re-rode the home range in 



50 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

squads of two, and branded any calves we found 
with a running iron. This added nearly a hundred 
more to our original number. On an open range 
like ours, it was not expected that everything would 
be branded ; but on quitting, it is safe to say we had 
missed less than one per cent of our calf crop. 

The cattle finished, we turned our attention to 
the branding of the horse stock. The Christmas sea 
son was approaching, and we wanted to get the work 
well in hand for the usual holiday festivities. There 
were some fifty manadas of mares belonging to 
Las Palomas, about one fourth of which were used 
for the rearing of mules, the others growing our 
saddle horses for ranch use. These bands numbered 
twenty to twenty-five brood mares each, and ranged 
mostly within twenty miles of the home ranch. 
They were never disturbed except to brand the 
colts, market surplus stock, or cut out the mature 
geldings to be broken for saddle use. Each ma- 
nada had its own range, never trespassing on others, 
but when they were brought together in the corral 
there was many a battle royal among the stallions. 

I was anxious to get the work over in good sea 
son, for I intended to ask for a two weeks' leave of 
absence. My parents lived near Cibollo Ford on 
the San Antonio River, and I made it a rule to spend 
Christmas with my own people. This year, in partic 
ular, I had a double motive in going home ; for the 
mouth of San Miguel and the McLeod ranch lay 
directly on my route. I had figured matters down 



CHRISTMAS 51 

to a fraction ; I would have a good excuse for stay 
ing one night going and another returning. And it 
would be my fault if I did not reach the ranch at 
an hour when an invitation to remain over night 
would be simply imperative under the canons of 
Texas hospitality. I had done enough hard work 
since the dance at Shepherd's to drive every thought 
of Esther McLeod out of my mind if that were pos 
sible, but as the time drew nearer her invitation to 
call was ever uppermost in my thoughts. 

So when the last of the horse stock was branded 
and the work was drawing to a close, as we sat 
around the fireplace one night and the question 
came up where each of us expected to spend Christ 
mas, I broached my plan. The master and mistress 
were expected at the Booth ranch on the Frio. 
Nearly all the boys, who had homes within two or 
three days' ride, hoped to improve the chance to 
make a short visit to their people. When, among 
the others, I also made my application for leave of 
absence, Uncle Lance turned in his chair with ap 
parent surprise. " What 's that ? You want to go 
home ? Well, now, that 's a new one on me. Why, 
Tom, I never knew you had any folks ; I got the 
idea, somehow, that you was won on a horse race. 
Here I had everything figured out to send you down 
to Santa Maria with Enrique. But I reckon with 
the ice broken, he '11 have to swim out or drown. 
Where do your folks live ? " I explained that they 
lived on the San Antonio River, northeast about one 



52 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

hundred and fifty miles. At this I saw my em 
ployer's face brighten. " Yes, yes, I see, " said he 
musingly ; " that will carry you past the widow 
McLeod's. You can go, son, and good luck to you." 

I timed my departure from Las Palomas, allow 
ing three days for the trip, so as to reach home on 
Christmas eve. By making a slight deviation, there 
was a country store which I could pass on the last 
day, where I expected to buy some presents for my 
mother and sisters. But I was in a pickle as to what 
to give Esther, and on consulting Miss Jean, I found 
that motherly elder sister had everything thought 
out in advance. There was an old Mexican woman, 
a pure Aztec Indian, at a ranchita belonging to Las 
Palomas, who was an expert in Mexican drawn 
work. The mistress of the home ranch had been a 
good patron ( of this old woman, and the next morn 
ing we drove over to the ranchita, where I secured 
half a dozen ladies' handkerchiefs, inexpensive but 
very rare. 

I owned a private horse, which had run idle all 
summer, and naturally expected to ride him on this 
trip. But Uncle Lance evidently wanted me to 
make a good impression on the widow McLeod, 
and brushed my plans aside, by asking me as a 
favor to ride a certain black horse belonging to his 
private string. " Quirk," said he, the evening be 
fore my departure, " I wish you would ride Wolf, 
that black six-year-old in my mount. When that 
rascal of an Enrique saddle-broke him for me, he 



CHRISTMAS 53 

always mounted him with a free head and on the 
move, and now when I use him he 's always on 
the fidget. So you just ride him over to the San 
Antonio and back, and see if you can't cure him 
of that restlessness. It may be my years, but I just 
despise a horse that 's always dancing a jig when 
I want to mount him." 

Glenn Gallup' s people lived in Victoria County, 
about as far from Las Palomas as mine, and the 
next morning we set out down the river. Our 
course together only led a short distance, but we 
jogged along until noon, when we rested an hour 
and parted, Glenn going on down the river for 
Oakville, while I turned almost due north across 
country for the mouth of San Miguel. The black 
carried me that afternoon as though the saddle 
was empty. I was constrained to hold him in, in 
view of the long journey before us, so as not to 
reach the McLeod ranch too early. Whenever we 
struck cattle on our course, I rode through them 
to pass away the time, and just about sunset I 
cantered up to the McLeod ranch with a dash. I 
did not know a soul on the place, but put on a 
bold front and asked for Miss Esther. On catch 
ing sight of me, she gave a little start, blushed 
modestly, and greeted me cordially. 

Texas hospitality of an early day is too well 
known to need comment ; I was at once introduced 
to the McLeod household. It was rather a preten 
tious ranch, somewhat dilapidated in appearance 



54 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

appearances are as deceitful on a cattle ranch as in 
the cut of a man's coat. Tony Hunter, a son-in-law 
of the widow, was foreman on the ranch, and dur 
ing the course of the evening in the discussion of 
cattle matters, I innocently drew out the fact that 
their branded calf crop of that season amounted 
to nearly three thousand calves. When a similar 
question was asked me, I reluctantly admitted that 
the Las Palomas crop was quite a disappointment 
this year, only branding sixty-five hundred calves, 
but that our mule and horse colts ran nearly a 
thousand head without equals in the Nueces valley. 

I knew there was no one there who could dispute 
my figures, though Mrs. McLeod expressed surprise 
at them. " Ye dinna say," said my hostess, looking 
directly at me over her spectacles, " that Las Palo 
mas branded that mony calves thi' year? Why, 
durin' ma gudeman's life we alway branded mair 
calves than did Mr. Lovelace. But then my hus 
band would join the army, and I had tae depend 
on greasers tae do ma work, and oor kye grew up 
mavericks." I said nothing in reply, knowing it 
to be quite natural for a woman or inexperienced 
person to feel always the prey of the fortunate and 
far-seeing. 

The next morning before leaving, I managed to 
have a nice private talk with Miss Esther, and 
thought I read my title clear, when she surprised me 
with the information that her mother contemplated 
sending her off to San Antonio to a private school 



CHRISTMAS 55 

for young ladies. Her two elder sisters had mar 
ried against her mother's wishes, it seemed, and 
Mrs. McLeod was determined to give her youngest 
daughter an education and fit her for something 
better than being the wife of a common cow hand. 
This was the inference from the conversation which 
passed between us at the gate. But when Esther 
thanked me for the Christmas remembrance I had 
brought her, I felt that I would take a chance on 
her, win or lose. Assuring her that I would make 
it a point to call on my return, I gave the black 
a free rein and galloped out of sight. 

I reached home late on Christmas eve. My two 
elder brothers, who also followed cattle work, had 
arrived the day before, and the Quirk family were 
once more united, for the first time in two years. 
Within an hour after my arrival, I learned from 
my brothers that there was to be a dance that night 
at a settlement about fifteen miles up the river. 
They were going, and it required no urging on 
their part to insure the presence of Quirk's three 
boys. Supper over, a fresh horse was furnished me, 
and we set out for the dance, covering the dis 
tance in less than two hours. I knew nearly every 
one in the settlement, and got a cordial welcome. 
I played the fiddle, danced with my former sweet 
hearts, and, ere the sun rose in the morning, rode 
home in time for breakfast. During that night's 
revelry, I contrasted my former girl friends on the 
San Antonio with another maiden, a slip of the 



56 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

old Scotch stock, transplanted and nurtured in the 
sunshine and soil of the San Miguel. The compari 
son stood all tests applied, and in my secret heart 
I knew who held the whip hand over the passions 
within me. 

As I expected to return to Las Palomas for the 
New Year, my time was limited to a four days* 
visit at home. But a great deal can be said in four 
days ; and at the end I was ready to saddle my 
black, bid my adieus, and ride for the southwest. 
During my visit I was careful not to betray that 
I had even a passing thought of a sweetheart, and 
what parents would suspect that a rollicking, care 
free young fellow of twenty could have any serious 
intentions toward a girl ? With brothers too indif 
ferent, and sisters too young, the secret was my 
own, though Wolf, my mount, as he put mile after 
mile behind us, seemed conscious that his mission to 
reach the San Miguel without loss of time was of 
more than ordinary moment. And a better horse 
never carried knight in the days of chivalry. 

On reaching the McLeod ranch during the after 
noon of the second day, I found Esther expectant ; 
but the welcome of her mother was of a frigid 
order. Having a Scotch mother myself, I knew 
something of arbitrary natures, and met Mrs. Mc 
Leod' s coolness with a fund of talk and stories ; 
yet I could see all too plainly that she was deter 
minedly on the defensive. I had my favorite fiddle 
with me which I was taking back to Las Palomas, 



CHRISTMAS 57 

and during the evening I played all the old Scotch 
ballads I knew and love songs of the highlands, 
hoping to soften her from the decided stand she 
had taken against me and my intentions. But her 
heritage of obstinacy was large, and her opposi 
tion strong, as several well-directed thrusts which 
reached me in vulnerable places made me aware, 
but I smiled as if they were flattering compliments. 
Several times I mentally framed replies only to 
smother them, for I was the stranger within her 
gates, and if she saw fit to offend a guest she was 
still within her rights. 

But the next morning as I tarried beyond the 
reasonable hour for my departure, her wrath broke 
out in a torrent. " If ye dinna ken the way hame, 
Mr. Quirk, I '11 show it ye," she said as she joined 
Esther and me at the hitch-rack, where we had been 
loitering for an hour. " And I dinna care muckle 
whaur ye gang, so ye get oot o' ma sight, and stay 
oot o' it. I thocht ye waur a ceevil stranger when ye 
bided wi' us last week, but noo I ken ye are some 
thing mair, ridin' your fine horses an' makin* pre 
sents tae ma lassie. That 's a' the guid that comes 
o' lettin' her rin tae every dance at Shepherd's 
Ferry. Gang ben the house tae your wark, ye jade, 
an' let me attend tae this fine gentleman. Noo, sir, 
gin ye ony business onywhaur else, ye 'd aye better 
be ridin' tae it, for ye are no wanted here, ye ken." 

" t Why, Mrs. McLeod," I broke in politely. 
" You hardly know anything about me." 



58 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

" No, an* I dinna wish it. You are frae Las 
Palomas, an' that 's aye eneugh for me. I ken auld 
Lance Lovelace, an' those that bide wi' him. Sma' 
wonder he brands sae mony calves and sells mair 
kye than a' the ither ranchmen in the country. 
Ay, man, I ken him well." 

1 saw that I had a tartar to deal with, but if I 
could switch her invective on some one absent, it 
would assist me in controlling myself. So I said to 
the old lady : " Why, I 've known Mr. Lovelace 
now almost a year, and over on the Nueces he is 
well liked, and considered a cowman whose word is 
as good as gold. What have you got against him ? " 

" Ower much, ma young freend. I kent him 
afore ye were born. I 'm sorry tae say that while 
ma gudeman was alive, he was a frequent visitor at 
oor place. But we dinna see him ony mair. He aye 
keeps awa' frae here, and camps wi' his wagons 
when he 's ower on the San Miguel to gather cat 
tle. He was no content merely wi' what kye drifted 
doon on the Nueces, but warked a big outfit the 
year around, e'en comin' ower on the Frio an' San 
Miguel maverick huntin'. That 's why he brands 
twice the calves that onybody else does, and owns 
a forty-mile front o' land on both sides o' the river. 
Ye see, I ken him weel." 

" Well, is n't that the way most cowmen got their 
start? " I innocently inquired, well knowing it was. 
" And do you blame him for running his brand on 
the unowned cattle that roamed the range ? I ex- 



CHRISTMAS 59 

pect if Mr. Lovelace was my father instead of my 
employer, you would n't be talking in the same 
key," and with that I led my horse out to mount. 

" Ye think a great deal o' yersel', because ye 're 
frae Las Paloinas. Aweel, no vaquero of auld 
Lance Lovelace can come sparkin' wi' ma lass. 
I've heard o' auld Lovelace's matchmaking. I'm 

O 

told he mak's matches and then laughs at the silly 
gowks. I 've twa worthless sons-in-law the noo, ane 
here an' anither a stage-driver. Aye, they 're capi 
tal husbands for Donald McLeod's lassies, are they 
no ? Afore I let Esther marry the first scamp that 
comes simperin' aroond here, I '11 put her in a con 
vent, an' mak' a nun o' the bairn. I gave the ither 
lassies their way, an' look at the reward. I tell ye 
I 'in goin' to bar the door on the last one, an' the 
man that marries her will be worthy o' her. He 
winna be a vaquero frae Las Palomas either ! " 

I had mounted my horse to start, well knowing 
it was useless to argue with an angry woman. 
Esther had obediently retreated to the safety of the 
house, aware that her mother had a tongue and 
evidently willing to be spared its invective in my 
presence. My horse was fidgeting about, impatient 
to be off, but I gave him the rowel and rode up to 
the gate, determined, if possible, to pour oil on the 
troubled waters. " Mrs. McLeod," said I, in hum 
ble tones, " possibly you take the correct view of 
this matter. Miss Esther and I have only been 
acquainted a few months, and will soon forget each 



60 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

other. Please take me in the house and let me tell 
her good-by." 

" No, sir. Dinna set foot inside o' this gate. I 
hope ye know ye 're no wanted here. There 's your 
road, the one leadin' south, an' ye 'd better be goin', 
I'mthinkinV 

I held in the black and rode off in a walk. This 
was the first clean knock-out I had ever met. 
Heretofore I had been egotistical enough to hold 
my head rather high, but this morning it drooped. 
Wolf seemed to notice it, and after the first mile 
dropped into an easy volunteer walk. I never no 
ticed the passing of time until we reached the river, 
and the black stopped to drink. Here I unsaddled 
for several hours ; then went on again in no cheer 
ful mood. Before I came within sight of Las Palo- 
mas near evening, my horse turned his head and 
nickered, and in a few minutes Uncle Lance and 
June Deweese galloped up and overtook me. I had 
figured out several very plausible versions of my 
adventure, but this sudden meeting threw me off 
my guard and Lance Lovelace was a hard man 
to tell an undetected, white-faced lie. I put on a 
bold front, but his salutation penetrated it at a 
glance. 

" What 's the matter, Tom ; any of your folks 
dead?" 

"No." 

"Sick?" 

" No." 



CHRISTMAS 61 

" Girl gone back on you ? " 

" I don't think." 

" It 's the old woman, then ? " 

" How do you know ? " 

" Because I know that old dame. I used to go 
over there occasionally when old man Donald was 
living, but the old lady excuse me ! I ought to 
have posted you, Tom, but I don't suppose it would 
have done any good. Brought your fiddle with you, 
I see. That 's good. I expect the old lady read my 
title clear to you." 

My brain must have been under a haze, for I re 
peated every charge she had made against him, not 
even sparing the accusation that he had remained 
out of the army and added to his brand by rnav- 
ericking cattle. 

" Did she say that ? " inquired Uncle Lance, 
laughing. " Why, the old hellion ! She must have 
been feeling in fine fettle ! " 



CHAPTER V 
A PIGEON HUNT 

THE new year dawned on Las Palomas rich in pro 
mise of future content. Uncle Lance and I had 
had a long talk the evening before, and under the 
reasoning of the old optimist the gloom gradually 
lifted from my spirits. I was glad I had been so 
brutally blunt that evening, regarding what Mrs. 
McLeod had said about him ; for it had a tendency 
to increase the rancher's aggressiveness in my be 
half. " Hell, Tom," said the old man, as we walked 
from the corrals to the house, " don't let a little 
thing like this disturb you. Of course she '11 four- 
flush and bluff you if she can, but you don't want 
to pay any more attention to the old lady than if 
she was some pelado. To be sure, it would be better 
to have her consent, but then " 

Glenn Gallup also arrived at the ranch on New 
Year's eve. He brought the report that wild pigeons 
were again roosting at the big bend of the river. 
It was a well-known pigeon roost, but the birds 
went to other winter feeding grounds, except dur 
ing years when there was a plentiful sweet mast. 
This bend was about midway between the ranch 
and Shepherd's, contained about two thousand 



A PIGEON HUNT 63 

acres, and was heavily timbered with ash, pecan, 
and hackberry. The feeding grounds lay distant, 
extending from the encinal ridges on the Las Pa- 
lomas lands to live-oak groves a hundred miles to 
the southward. But however far the pigeons might 
go for food, they always returned to the roosting 
place at night. 

44 That means pigeon pie," said Uncle Lance, on 
receiving Glenn's report. 44 Everybody and the cook 
can go. We only have a sweet mast about every 
three or four years in the encinal, but it always 
brings the wild pigeons. We'll take a couple of 
pack mules and the little and the big pot and the 
two biggest Dutch ovens on the ranch. Oh, you got 
to parboil a pigeon if you want a tender pie. Next 
to a fish fry, a good pigeon pie makes the finest 
eating going. I 've made many a one, and I give 
notice right now that the making of the pie falls 
to me or I won't play. And another thing, not a 
bird shall be killed more than we can use. Of course 
we '11 bring home a mess, and a few apiece for the 
Mexicans." 

We had got up our horses during the forenoon, 
and as soon as dinner was over the white contin 
gent saddled up and started for the roost. Tiburcio 
and Enrique accompanied us, and, riding leisurely, 
we reached the bend several hours before the re 
turn of the birds. The roost had been in use but 
a short time, but as we scouted through the timber 
there was abundant evidence of an immense flight 



64 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

of pigeons. The ground was literally covered with 
feathers ; broken limbs hung from nearly every 
tree, while in one instance a forked hackberry had 
split from the weight of the birds. 

We made camp on the outskirts of the timber, 
and at early dusk great flocks of pigeons began to 
arrive at their roosting place. We only had four 
shotguns, and, dividing into pairs, we entered the 
roost shortly after dark. Glenn Gallup fell to me as 
my pardner. I carried the gunny sack for the birds, 
not caring for a gun in such unfair shooting. The 
flights continued to arrive for fully an hour after 
we entered the roost, and in half a dozen shots we 
bagged over fifty birds. Remembering the admoni 
tion of Uncle Lance, Gallup refused to kill more, 
and we sat down and listened to the rumbling noises 
of the grove. There was a constant chattering of 
the pigeons, and as they settled in great flights in 
the trees overhead, whipping the branches with their 
wings in search of footing, they frequently fell to 
the ground at our feet. 

Gallup and I returned to camp early. Before we 
had skinned our kill the others had all come in, 
disgusted with the ease with which they had filled 
their bags. We soon had two pots filled and on the 
fire parboiling, while Tiburcio lined two ovens with 
pastry, all ready for the baking. In a short time 
two horsemen, attracted by our fire, crossed the 
river below our camp and rode up. 

"Hello, Uncle Lance," lustily shouted one of 



A PIGEON HUNT 65 

them, as he dismounted. " It 's you, is it, that 's 
shooting my pigeons ? All right, sir, I '11 stay all 
night and help you eat them. I had figured on rid 
ing back to the Frio to-night, but I 've changed my 
mind. Got any horse hobbles here ? " The two men, 
George Nathan and Hugh Trotter, were accommo 
dated with hobbles, and after an exchange of com 
monplace news of the country, we settled down to 
story-telling. Trotter was a convivial acquaintance 
of Aaron Scales, quite a vagabond and consequently 
a story-teller. After Trotter had narrated a late 
dream, Scales unlimbered and told one of his own. 

" I remember a dream I had several years ago, 
and the only way I can account for it was, I 
had been drinking more or less during the day. 
I dreamt I was making a long ride across a dreary 
desert, and towards night it threatened a bad storm. 
I began to look around for some shelter. I could 
just see the tops of a clump of trees beyond a hill, 
and rode hard to get to them, thinking that there 
might be a house amongst them. How I did ride ! 
But I certainly must have had a poor horse, for I 
never seemed to get any nearer that timber. I rode 
and rode, but all this time, hours and hours it seemed, 
and the storm gathering and scattering raindrops 
falling, the timber seemed scarcely any nearer. 

" At last I managed to reach the crest of the hill. 
Well, sir, there was n't a tree in sight, only, under 
the brow of the hill, a deserted adobe jacal, and I 
rode for that, picketed my horse and went in. The 



66 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

jacal had a thatched roof with several large holes 
in it, and in the fireplace burned a roaring fire. 
That was some strange, but I did n't mind it and 
I was warming my hands before the fire and con 
gratulating myself on my good luck, when a large 
black cat sprang from the outside into an open 
window, and said : ' Pardner, it looks like a bad 
night outside.' 

" I eyed him a little suspiciously ; but, for all 
that, if he had n't spoken, I would n't have thought 
anything about it, for I like cats. He walked back 
ward and forward on the window sill, his spine and 
tail nicely arched, and rubbed himself on either 
window jamb. I watched him some little time, and 
finally concluded to make friends with him. Going 
over to the window, I put out my hand to stroke 
his glossy back, when a gust of rain came through 
the window and the cat vanished into the darkness. 

" I went back to the fire, pitying the cat out there 
in the night's storm, and was really sorry I had 
disturbed him. I did n't give the matter overmuch 
attention but sat before the fire, wondering who 
could have built it and listening to the rain outside, 
when all of a sudden Mr. Cat walked between my 
legs, rubbing himself against my boots, purring 
and singing. Once or twice I thought of stroking 
his fur, but checked myself on remembering he had 
spoken to me on the window sill. He would walk 
over and rub himself against the jambs of the fire 
place, and then come back and rub himself against 



A PIGEON HUNT 67 

my boots friendly like. I saw him just as clear as 
I see those pots on the fire or these saddles lying 
around here. I was noting every move of his as he 
meandered around, when presently he cocked up an 
eye at me and remarked : ; Old sport, this is a fine 
fire we have here.' 

" I was beginning to feel a little creepy, for I 'd 
seen mad dogs and skunks, and they say a cat gets 
locoed likewise, and the cuss was talking so cleverly 
that I began to lose my regard for him. After a 
little while I concluded to pet him, for he did n't 
seem a bit afraid ; but as I put out my hand to catch 
him, he nimbly hopped into the roaring fire and 
vanished. Then I did feel foolish. I had a good 
six-shooter, and made up my mind if he showed up 
again I 'd plug him one for luck. I was growing 
sleepy, and it was getting late, so I concluded to 
spread down my saddle blankets and slicker before 
the fire and go to sleep. While I was making down 
my bed, I happened to look towards the fire, when 
there was my black cat, with not even a hair singed. 
I drew my gun quietly and cracked away at him, 
when he let out the funniest little laugh, saying : 
4 You 've been drinking, Aaron ; you 're nervous ; 
you could n't hit a flock of barns.' 

" I was getting excited by this time, and cut loose 
on him rapidly, but he dodged every shot, jumping 
from the hearth to the mantel, from the mantel to 
an old table, from there to a niche in the wall, and 
from the niche clear across the room and out of the 



68 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

window. About then I was some nervous, and after 
a while lay down before the fire and tried to go to 
sleep. 

" It was a terrible night outside one of those 
nights when you can hear things ; and with the vivid 
imagination I was enjoying then, I was almost afraid 
to try to sleep. But just as I was going into a doze, 
I raised up my head, and there was my cat walking 
up and down my frame, his back arched and his 
tail flirting with the slow sinuous movement of a 
snake. I reached for my gun, and as it clicked in 
cocking, he began raking my legs, sharpening his 
claws and growling like a tiger. I gave a yell and 
kicked him off, when he sprang up on the old table 
and I could see his eyes glaring at me. I emptied 
my gun at him a second time, and at every shot he 
crouched lower and crept forward as if getting ready 
to spring. When I had fired the last shot I jumped 
up and ran out into the rain, and had n't gone more 
than a hundred yards before I fell into a dry wash. 
When I crawled out there was that d d cat rub 
bing himself against my boot leg. I stood breath 
less for a minute, thinking what next to do, and the 
cat remarked : ' Was n't that a peach of a race we 
just had ! ' 

" I made one or two vicious kicks at him and he 
again vanished. Well, fellows, in that dream I 
walked around that old jacal all night in my shirt 
sleeves, and it raining pitchforks. A number of 
times I peeped in through the window or door, and 



A PIGEON HUNT 69 

there sat the cat on the hearth, in full possession of 
the shack, and me out in the weather. Once when I 
looked in he was missing, but while I was watching 
he sprang through a hole in the roof, alighting in 
the fire, from which he walked out gingerly, shak 
ing his feet as if he had just been out in the wet. I 
shot away every cartridge I had at him, but in the 
middle of the shooting he would just coil up before 
the fire and snooze away. 

" That night was an eternity of torment to me, and 
I was relieved when some one knocked on the door, 
and I awoke to find myself in a good bed and pound 
ing my ear on a goose-hair pillow in a hotel in Oak- 
ville. Why, I would n't have another dream like 
that for a half interest in the Las Palomas brand. 
No, honest, if I thought drinking gave me that hide 
ous dream, here would be one lad ripe for reform." 

" It strikes me," said Uncle Lance, rising and 
lifting a pot lid, " that these birds are parboiled 
by this time. Bring me a fork, Enrique. Well, I 
should say they were. I hope hell ain't any hotter 
than that fire. Now, Tiburcio, if you have every 
thing ready, we '11 put them in the oven, and bake 
them a couple of hours." 

Several of us assisted in fixing the fire and pro 
perly coaling the ovens. When this had been at 
tended to, and we had again resumed our easy posi 
tions around the fire, Trotter remarked : " Aaron, 
you ought to cut drinking out of your amusements ; 
you have n't the constitution to stand it. Now with 



70 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

me it 's different. I can drink a week and never 
sleep ; that 's the kind of a build to have if you 
expect to travel and meet all comers. Last year I 
was working for a Kansas City man on the trail, 
and after the cattle were delivered about a hundred 
miles beyond, Ellsworth, up in Kansas, he sent 
us home by way of Kansas City. In fact, that was 
about the only route we could take. Well, it was a 
successful trip, and as this man was plum white, any 
how, he concluded to show us the sights around his 
burg. He was interested in a commission firm out 
at the stockyards, and the night we reached there all 
the office men, including the old man himself, turned 
themselves loose to show us a good time. 

" We had been drinking alkali water all summer, 
and along about midnight they began to drop out 
until there was no one left to face the music except 
a little cattle salesman and myself. After all the 
others quit us, we went into a feed trough on a back 
street, and had a good supper. I had been drink 
ing everything like a good fellow, and at several 
places there was no salt to put in the beer. The 
idea struck me that I would buy a sack of salt from 
this eating ranch and take it with me. The landlord 
gave me a funny look, but after some little parley 
went to the rear and brought out a five-pound sack 
of table salt. 

" It was just what I wanted, and after paying for 
it the salesman and I started out to make a night 
of it. This yard man was a short, fat Dutchman, 



A PIGEON HUNT 71 

and we made a team for your whiskers. I carried 
the sack of salt under my arm, and the quantity 
of beer we killed before daylight was a caution. ' 
About daybreak, the salesman wanted me to go to 
our hotel and go to bed, but as I never drink and 
sleep at the same time, I declined. Finally he ex 
plained to me that he would have to be at the 
yards at eight o'clock, and begged me to excuse 
him. By this time he was several sheets in the 
wind, while I could walk a chalk line without a 
waver. Somehow we drifted around to the hotel 
where the outfit were supposed to be stopping, and 
lined up at the bar for a final drink. It was just 
daybreak, and between that Dutch cattle salesman 
and the barkeeper and myself, it would have taken 
a bookkeeper to have kept a check on the drinks 
we consumed every one the last. 

" Then the Dutchman gave me the slip and was 
gone, and I wandered into the office of the hotel. 
A newsboy sold me a paper, and the next minute a 
bootblack wanted to give me a shine. Well, I took 
a seat for a shine, and for two hours I sat there as 
full as a tick, and as dignified as a judge on the 
bench. All the newsboys and bootblacks caught on, 
and before any of the outfit showed up that morn 
ing to rescue me, I had bought a dozen papers and 
had my boots shined for the tenth time. If I 'd been 
foxy enough to have got rid of that sack of salt, no 
one could have told I was off the reservation ; but 
there it was under my arm. If ever I make another 



72 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

trip over the trail, and touch at Kansas City return 
ing, I '11 hunt up that cattle salesman, for he 's 
the only man I ever met that can pace in my class." 

"Did you hear that tree break a few minutes 
ago? " inquired Mr. Nathan. " There goes another 
one. It hardly looks possible that enough pigeons 
could settle on a tree to break it down. Honestly, 
I 'd give a purty to know how many birds are in 
that roost to-night. More than there are cattle in 
Texas, I '11 bet. Why, Hugh killed, with both bar 
rels, twenty-two at one shot." 

We had brought blankets along, but it was early 
and no one thought of sleeping for an hour yet. Mr. 
Nathan was quite a sportsman, and after he and 
Uncle Lance had discussed the safest method of 
hunting javalina, it again devolved on the boys to 
entertain the party with stories. 

" I was working on a ranch once," said Glenn 
Gallup, " out on the Concho Eiver. It was a stag 
outfit, there being few women then out Concho way. 
One day two of the boys were riding in home when 
an accident occurred. They had been shooting more 
or less during the morning, and one of them, named 
Bill Cook, had carelessly left the hammer of his 
six-shooter on a cartridge. As Bill jumped his horse 
over a dry arroyo, his pistol was thrown from its 
holster, and, falling on the hard ground, was dis 
charged. The bullet struck him in the ankle, ranged 
upward, shattering the large bone in his leg into 
fragments, and finally lodged in the saddle. 



A PIGEON HUNT 73 

"They were about five miles from camp when 
the accident happened. After they realized how 
bad he was hurt, Bill remounted his horse and rode 
nearly a mile ; but the wound bled so then that the 
fellow with him insisted on his getting off and lying 
on the ground while he went into the ranch for a 
wagon. Well, it 's to be supposed that he lost no 
time riding in, and I was sent to San Angelo for a 
doctor. It was just noon when I got off. I had to 
ride thirty miles. Talk about your good horses I 
had one that day. I took a free gait from the start, 
but the last ten miles was the fastest, for I covered 
the entire distance in less than three hours. There 
was a doctor in the town who 'd been on the fron 
tier all of his life, and was used to such calls. Well, 
before dark that evening we drove into the ranch. 

" They had got the lad into the ranch, had checked 
the flow of blood and eased the pain by standing on 
a chair and pouring water on the wound from a 
height. But Bill looked pale as a ghost from the 
loss of blood. The doctor gave the leg a single look, 
and, turning to us, said : * Boys, she has to come off.' 

" The doctor talked to Bill freely and frankly, 
telling him that it was the only chance for his life. 
He readily consented to the operation, and while 
the doctor was getting him under the influence of 
opiates we fixed up an operating table. When all 
was ready, the doctor took the leg off below the 
knee, cursing us generally for being so sensitive to 
cutting and the sight of blood. There was quite a 



74 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

number of boys at the ranch, but it affected them 
all alike. It was interesting to watch him cut and 
tie arteries and saw the bones, and I think I stood 
it better than any of them. When the operation 
was over, we gave the fellow the best bed the ranch 
afforded and fixed him up comfortable. The doctor 
took the bloody stump and wrapped it up in an old 
newspaper, saying he would take it home with him. 

" After supper the surgeon took a sleep, saying 
we would start back to town by two o'clock, so as 
to be there by daylight. He gave instructions to 
call him in case Bill awoke, but he hoped the boy 
would take a good sleep. As I had left my horse in 
town, I was expected to go back with him. Shortly 
after midnight the fellow awoke, so we aroused the 
doctor, who reported him doing well. The old Doc 
sat by his bed for an hour and told him all kinds 
of stories. He had been a surgeon in the Confed 
erate army, and from the drift of his talk you 'd 
think it was impossible to kill a man without cutting 
off his head. 

" ' Now take a young fellow like you,' said the 
doctor to his patient, 4 if he was all shot to pieces, 
just so the parts would hang together, I could fix 
him up and he would get well. You have no idea, 
son, how much lead a young man can carry.' We 
had coffee and lunch before starting, the doctor 
promising to send me back at once with necessary 
medicines. 

" We had a very pleasant trip driving back to town 



A PIGEON HUNT 75 

that night. The stories he could tell were like a 
song with ninety verses, no two alike. It was hardly 
daybreak when we reached San Angelo, rustled out 
a sleepy hostler at the livery stable where the team 
belonged, and had the horses cared for ; and as we 
left the stable the doctor gave me his instrument 
case, while he carried the amputated leg in the 
paper. We both felt the need of a bracer after 
our night's ride, so we looked around to see if any 
saloons were open. There was only one that showed 
any signs of life, and we headed for that. The doc 
tor was in the lead as we entered, and we both 
knew the barkeeper well. This barkeeper was a 
practical joker himself, and he and the doctor were 
great hunting companions. We walked up to the 
bar together, when the doctor laid the package 
on the counter and asked : 4 Is this good for two 
drinks ? ' The barkeeper, with a look of expecta 
tion in his face as if the package might contain half 
a dozen quail or some fresh fish, broke the string 
and unrolled it. Without a word he walked straight 
from behind the bar and out of the house. If he had 
been shot himself he could n't have looked whiter. 
" The doctor went behind the bar and said : 
' Glenn, what are you going to take ? ' ' Let her 
come straight, doctor,' was my reply, and we both 
took the same. We had the house all to ourselves, 
and after a second round of drinks took our leave. 
As we left by the front door, we saw the barkeeper 
leaning against a hitching post half a block below. 



76 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

The doctor called to him as we were leaving : ' Billy, 
if the drinks ain't on you, charge them to me.' " 

The moon was just rising, and at Uncle Lance's 
suggestion we each carried in a turn of wood. Pil 
ing a portion of it on the fire, the blaze soon lighted 
up the camp, throwing shafts of light far into the 
recesses of the woods around us. " In another hour," 
said Uncle Lance, recoaling the oven lids, "that 
smaller pie will be all ready to serve, but we '11 keep 
the big one for breakfast. So, boys, if you want to 
sit up awhile longer, we '11 have a midnight lunch, 
and then all turn in for about forty winks." As the 
oven lid was removed from time to time to take note 
of the baking, savory odors of the pie were wafted 
to our anxious nostrils. On the intimation that one 
oven would be ready in an hour, not a man sug 
gested blankets, and, taking advantage of the lull, 
Theodore Quayle claimed attention. 

" Another fellow and myself," said Quayle, " were 
knocking around Fort Worth one time seeing the 
sights. We had drunk until it did n't taste right 
any longer. This chum of mine was queer in his 
drinking. If he ever got enough once, he did n't 
want any more for several days : you could cure 
him by offering him plenty. But with just the right 
amount on board, he was a hail fellow. He was a 
big, ambling, awkward cuss, who could be led into 
anything on a hint or suggestion. We had been 
knocking around the town for a week, until there 
was nothing new to be seen. 



A PIGEON HUNT 77 

" Several times as we passed a millinery shop, 
kept by a little blonde, we had seen her standing 
at the door. Something it might have been his 
ambling walk, but, anyway, something about my 
chum amused her, for she smiled and watched him 
as we passed. He never could walk along beside 
you for any distance, but would trail behind and 
look into the windows. He could not be hurried 
not in town. I mentioned to him that he had made 
a mash on the little blond milliner, and he at once 
insisted that I should show her to him. We passed 
down on the opposite side of the street and I pointed 
out the place. Then we walked by several times, 
and finally passed when she was standing in the 
doorway talking to some customers. As we came 
up he straightened himself, caught her eye, and 
tipped his hat with the politeness of a dancing 
master. She blushed to the roots of her hair, and 
he walked on very erect some little distance, then 
we turned a corner and held a confab. He was for 
playing the whole string, discount or no discount, 
anyway. 

" An excuse to go in was wanting, but we thought 
we could invent one ; however, he needed a drink 
or two to facilitate his thinking and loosen his 
tongue. To get them was easier than the excuse ; 
but with the drinks the motive was born. ' You 
wait here,' said he to me, 4 until I go round to the 
livery stable and get my coat off my saddle.' He 
never encumbered himself with extra clothing. 



78 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

"We had not seen our horses, saddles, or any of our 
belongings during the week of our visit. When he 
returned he inquired, ' Do I need a shave ? ' 

" 4 Oh, no,' I said, ' you need no shave. You may 
have a drink too many, or lack one of having 
enough. It 's hard to make a close calculation on 
you.' 

< Then I'm all ready,' said he, 'for I 've just 
the right gauge of steam.' He led the way as we 
entered. It was getting dark and the shop was 
empty of customers. Where he ever got the man 
ners, heaven only knows. Once inside the door we 
halted, and she kept a counter between us as she 
approached. She ought to have called the police 
and had us run in. She was probably scared, but 
her voice was fairly steady as she spoke. 4 Gentle 
men, what can I do for you ? ' 

" 4 My friend here,' said he, with a bow and a 
wave of the hand, * was unfortunate enough to lose 
a wager made between us. The terms of the bet 
were that the loser was to buy a new hat for one of 
the dining-room girls at our hotel. As we are leav 
ing town to-morrow, we have just dropped in to see 
if you have anything suitable. We are both totally 
incompetent to decide on such a delicate matter, but 
we will trust entirely to your judgment in the selec 
tion.' The milliner was quite collected by this 
time, as she asked : * Any particular style ? and 
about what price ? ' 

" ' The price is immaterial,' said he disdainfully. 



A PIGEON HUNT 79 

4 Any man who will wager on the average weight of 
a train-load of cattle, his own cattle, mind you, and 
miss them twenty pounds, ought to pay for his lack 
of judgment. Don't you think so, Miss er er. 
Excuse me for being unable to call your name 
but but ' ' De Ment is my name,' said she with 
some little embarrassment. 

" 4 Livingstone is mine,' said he with a profound 
bow, ' and this gentleman is Mr. Ochiltree, youngest 
brother of Congressman Tom. Now regarding the 
style, we will depend entirely upon your selection. 
But possibly the loser is entitled to some choice in 
the matter. Mr. Ochiltree, have you any preference 
in regard to style ? ' 

44 ' Why, no, I can generally tell whether a hat 
becomes a lady or not, but as to selecting one 
I am at sea. "We had better depend on Miss De 
Ment's judgment. Still, I always like an abundance 
of flowers on a lady's hat. Whenever a girl walks 
down the street ahead of me, I like to watch the 
posies, grass, and buds on her hat wave and nod 
with the motion of her walk. Miss De Ment, don't 
you agree with me that an abundance of flowers 
becomes a young lady ? And this girl can't be over 
twenty.' 

" 4 Well, now,' said she, going into matters in 
earnest, 4 1 can scarcely advise you. Is the young 
lady a brunette or blonde ? ' 

"'What difference does that make?' he inno 
cently asked. 



80 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

" ' Oh,' said she, smiling, ' we must harmonize 
colors. What would suit one complexion would not 
become another. What color is her hair ? ' 

" ' Nearly the color of yours/ said he. ' Not so 
heavy and lacks the natural wave which yours has 
but she 's all right. She can ride a string of my 
horses until they all have sore backs. I tell you she 
is a cute trick But, say, Miss De Ment, what do 
you think of a green hat, broad brimmed, turned up 
behind and on one side, long black feathers run 
round and turned up behind, with a blue bird on 
the other side swooping down like a pigeon hawk, 
long tail feathers and an arrow in its beak ? That 
strikes me as about the mustard. What do you 
think of that kind of a hat, dear ? ' 

" ' Why, sir, the colors don't harmonize,' she re 
plied, blushing. 

" ' Theodore, do you know anything about this 
harmony of colors ? Excuse me, madam, and I 
crave your pardon, Mr. Ochiltree, for using your 
given name, but really this harmony of colors is 
all French to me.' 

" 4 Well, if the young lady is in town, why can't 
you have her drop in and make her own selection ? ' 
suggested the blond milliner. He studied a mo 
ment, and then awoke as if from a trance. ' Just as 
easy as not ; this very evening or in the morning. 
Strange we did n't think of that sooner. Yes ; the 
landlady of the hotel can join us, and we can count 
on your assistance in selecting the hat.' With a 



A PIGEON HUNT 81 

number of comments on her attractive place, in 
quiries regarding trade,and a flattering compliment 
on having made such a charming acquaintance, we 
edged towards the door. ' This evening then, or 
in the morning at the farthest, you may expect an 
other call, when my friend must pay the penalty 
of his folly by settling the bill. Put it on heavy.' 
And he gave her a parting wink. 

" Together we bowed ourselves out, and once safe 
in the street he said : ' Did n't she help us out of 
that easy? If she wasn't a blonde, I'd go back 
and buy her two hats for suggesting it as she did.' 

" 4 Kather good looking too,' I remarked. 

" 4 Oh, well, that 's a matter of taste. I like peo 
ple with red blood in them. Now if you was to saw 
her arm off, it would n't bleed ; just a little white 
water might ooze out, possibly. The best-looking 
girl I ever saw was down in the lower Rio Grande 
country, and she was milking a goat. Theodore, 
my dear fellow, when I 'm led blushingly to the 
altar, you '11 be proud of my choice. I 'm a judge 
of beauty.' " 

It was after midnight when we disposed of the 
first oven of pigeon pot-pie, and, wrapping ourselves 
in blankets, lay down around the fire. With the 
first sign of dawn, we were aroused by Mr. Nathan 
and Uncle Lance to witness the return flight of 
the birds to their feeding grounds. Hurrying to 
the nearest opening, we saw the immense flight of 
pigeons blackening the sky overhead. Stiffened by 



82 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

their night's rest, they flew low ; but the beauty and 
immensity of the flight overawed us, and we stood 
in mute admiration, no one firing a shot. For fully 
a half-hour the flight continued, ending in a few 
scattering birds. 



CHAPTER VI 
SPRING OF '76 

THE spring of '76 was eventful at Las Palomas. 
After the pigeon hunt, Uncle Lance went to San 
Antonio to sell cattle for spring delivery. Mean 
while, Father Norquin visited the ranch and spent 
a few days among his parishioners, Miss Jean act 
ing the hostess in behalf of Las Palomas. The 
priest proved a congenial fellow of the cloth, and 
among us, with Miss Jean's countenance, it was 
decided not to delay Enrique's marriage ; for there 
was no telling when Uncle Lance would return. 
All the arrangements were made by the padre and 
Miss Jean, the groom-to-be apparently playing a 
minor part in the preliminaries. Though none of 
the white element of the ranch were communicants 
of his church, the priest apparently enjoyed the 
visit. At parting, the mistress pressed a gold piece 
into his chubby palm as the marriage fee for En 
rique ; and, after naming a day for the ceremony, 
the padre mounted his horse and left us for the 
Tarancalous, showering his blessings on Las Pa 
lomas and its people. 

During the intervening days before the wedding, 
we overhauled an unused jacal and made it habit- 



84 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

able for the bride and groom. The jacal is a crude 
structure of this semi-tropical country, containing 
but a single room with a shady, protecting stoop. 
It is constructed by standing palisades on end in a 
trench. These constitute the walls. The floor is 
earthen, while the roof is thatched with the wild 
grass which grows rank in the overflow portions of 
the river valley. It forms a serviceable shelter for 
a warm country, the peculiar roofing equally de 
fying rain and the sun's heat. Under the leader 
ship of the mistress of the ranch, assisted by the 
Mexican women, the jacal was transformed into a 
rustic bower ; for Enrique was not only a favorite 
among the whites, but also among his own people. 
A few gaudy pictures of Saints and the Madonna 
ornamented the side walls, while in the rear hung 
the necessary crucifix. At the time of its building 
the jacal had been blessed, as was customary before 
occupancy, and to Enrique's reasoning the potency 
of the former sprinkling still held good. 

Weddings were momentous occasions among the 
Mexican population at Las Palomas. In outfitting 
the party to attend Enrique's wedding at Santa 
Maria, the ranch came to a standstill. Not only 
the regular ambulance but a second conveyance was 
required to transport the numerous female rela 
tives of the groom, while the men, all in gala 
attire, were mounted on the best horses on the 
ranch. As none of the whites attended, Deweese 
charged Tiburcio with humanity to the stock, while 



SPRING OF '76 85 

the mistress admonished every one to be on his 
good behavior. With greetings to Santa Maria, the 
wedding party set out. They were expected to re 
turn the following evening, and the ranch was set 
in order to give the bride a rousing reception on 
her arrival at Las Palomas. The largest place on 
the ranch was a warehouse, and we shifted its con 
tents in such a manner as to have quite a commo 
dious ball-room. The most notable decoration of 
the room was an immense heart-shaped figure, in 
which was worked in live-oak leaves the names of 
the two ranches, flanked on either side with the 
American and Mexican flags. Numerous other de 
corations, expressing welcome to the bride, were in 
evidence on every hand. Tallow was plentiful at 
Las Palomas, and candles were fastened at every 
possible projection. 

The mounted members of the wedding party re 
turned near the middle of the afternoon. Accord 
ing to reports, Santa Maria had treated them most 
hospitably. The marriage was simple, but the fes 
tivities following had lasted until dawn. The re 
turning guests sought their jacals to snatch a few 
hours' sleep before the revelry would be resumed 
at Las Palomas. An hour before sunset the four- 
mule ambulance bearing the bride and groom drove 
into Las Palomas with a flourish. Before leaving 
the bridal couple at their own jacal, Tiburcio halted 
the ambulance in front of the ranch-house for the 
formal welcome. In the absence of her brother, 



86 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

Miss Jean officiated in behalf of Las Palomas, ten 
derly caressing the bride. The boys monopolized 
her with their congratulations and welcome, which 
delighted Enrique. As for the bride, she seemed 
at home from the first, soon recognizing me as the 
padrino segundo at the time of her betrothal. 

Quite a delegation of the bride's friends from 
Santa Maria accompanied the party on their re 
turn, from whom were chosen part of the musicians 
for the evening violins and guitars in the hands 
of the native element of the two ranches making 
up a pastoral orchestra. I volunteered my services ; 
but so much of the music was new to me that 
I frequently excused myself for a dance with the 
senoritas. In the absence of Uncle Lance, our 
see/undo, June Deweese, claimed the first dance of 
the evening with the bride. Miss Jean lent only 
the approval of her presence, not participating, and 
withdrawing at an early hour. As all the Amer 
ican element present spoke Spanish slightly, that 
became the language of the evening. But, fur 
ther than to countenance with our presence the 
festivities, we were out of place, and, ere midnight, 
all had excused themselves with the exception of 
Aaron Scales and myself. On the pleadings of En 
rique, I remained an hour or two longer, dancing 
with his bride, or playing some favorite selection 
for the delighted groom. 

Several days after the wedding Uncle Lance 
returned. He had been successful in contracting 



SPRING OF 76 87 

a trail herd of thirty-five hundred cattle, and a 
remuda of one hundred and twenty - five saddle 
horses with which to handle them. The contract 
called for two thousand two-year-old steers and 
fifteen hundred threes. There was a difference of 
four dollars a head in favor of the older cattle, and 
it was the ranchero's intention to fill the latter class 
entirely from the Las Palomas brand. As to the 
younger cattle, neighboring ranches would be in 
vited to deliver twos in filling the contract, and if 
any were lacking, the home ranch would supply the 
deficiency. Having ample range, the difference in 
price was an inducement to hold the younger cattle. 
To keep a steer another year cost nothing, while the 
ranchero returned convinced that the trail might 
soon furnish an outlet for all surplus cattle. In the 
matter of the horses, too, rather than reduce our 
supply of saddle stock below the actual needs of 
the ranch, Uncle Lance concluded to buy fifty head 
in making up the remuda. There were several hun 
dred geldings on the ranch old enough for saddle 
purposes, but they would be as good as useless in 
handling cattle the first year after breaking. 

As this would be the first trail herd from Las 
Palomas, we naturally felt no small pride in the 
transaction. According to contract, everything was 
to be ready for final delivery on the twenty-fifth of 
March. The contractors, Camp & Dupree, of Fort 
Worth, Texas, were to send their foreman two 
weeks in advance to receive, classify, and pass upon 



88 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

the cattle and saddle stock. They were exacting 
in their demands, yet humane and reasonable. In 
making up the herd no cattle were to be corralled at 
night, and no animal would be received which had 
been roped. The saddle horses were to be treated 
likewise. These conditions would put into the sad 
dle every available man on the ranch as well as on 
the ranchitas. But we looked eagerly forward to 
the putting up of the herd. Letters were written 
and dispatched to a dozen ranches within striking 
distance, inviting them to turn in two-year-old steers 
at the full contract price. June Deweese was sent 
out to buy fifty saddle horses, which would fill 
the required standard, " fourteen hands or better, 
serviceable and gentle broken." I was dispatched 
to Santa Maria, to invite Don Mateo Gonzales to 
participate in the contract. The range of every 
saddle horse on the ranch was located, so that we 
could gather them, when wanted, in a day. Less 
than a month's time now remained before the de 
livery day, though we did not expect to go into 
camp for actual gathering until the arrival of the 
trail foreman. 

In going and returning from San Antonio my 
employer had traveled by stage. As it happened, 
the driver of the up-stage out of Oakville was Jack 
Martin, the son-in-law of Mrs. McLeod. He and 
Uncle Lance being acquainted, the old ranchero's 
matchmaking instincts had, during the day's travel, 
again forged to the front. By roundabout inquiries 



SPRING OF 76 89 

he had elicited the information that Mrs. McLeod 
had, immediately after the holidays, taken Esther 
to San Antonio and placed her in school. By in 
nocent artful suggestions of his interest in the 
welfare of the family, he learned the name of the 
private school of which Esther was a pupil. Fur 
thermore, he cultivated the good will of the driver 
in various ways over good cigars, and at parting 
assured him on returning he would take the stage 
so as to have the pleasure of his company on the 
return trip the highest compliment that could be 
paid a stage-driver. 

From several sources I had learned that Esther 
had left the ranch for the city, but on Uncle Lance's 
return I got the full particulars. As a neighboring 
ranchman, and bearing self-invented messages from 
the family, he had the assurance to call at the school. 
His honest countenance was a passport anywhere, 
and he not only saw Esther but prevailed on her 
teachers to give the girl, some time during his visit 
in the city, a half holiday. The interest he mani 
fested in the girl won his request, and the two had 
spent an afternoon visiting the parks and other 
points of interest. It is needless to add that he 
made hay in my behalf during this half holiday. 
But the most encouraging fact that he unearthed 
was that Esther was disgusted with her school life 
and was homesick. She had declared that if she 
ever got away from school, no power on earth could 
force her back again. 



90 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

" Shucks, Tom," said he, the next morning after 
his return, as we were sitting in the shade of the 
corrals waiting for the remuda to come in, " that 
poor little country girl might as well be in a peni 
tentiary as in that school. She belongs on these 
prairies, and you can't make anything else out of 
her. I can read between the lines, and any one can 
see that her education is finished. When she told 
me how rudely her mother had treated you, her 
heart was an open book and easily read. Don't you 
lose any sleep on how you stand in her affections 
that 's all serene. She '11 be home on a spring vaca 
tion, and that '11 be your chance. If I was your age, 
I 'd make it a point to see that she did n't go back 
to school. She '11 run off with you rather than that. 
In the game of matrimony, son, you want to play 
your cards boldly and never hesitate to lead trumps." 

To further matters, when returning by stage my 
employer had ingratiated himself into the favor 
of the driver in many ways, and urged him to 
send word to Mrs. McLeod to turn in her two-year- 
olds on his contract. A few days later her foreman 
and son-in-law, Tony Hunter, rode down to Las 
Palomas, anxious for the chance to turn in cattle. 
There had been little opportunity for several years 
to sell steers, and when a chance like this came, 
there would have been no trouble to fill half a 
dozen contracts, as supply far exceeded demand. 

Uncle Lance let Mrs. McLeod's foreman feel that 
in allotting her five hundred of the younger cattle, 



SPRING OF '76 91 

he was actuated by old-time friendship for the fam 
ily. As a mark of special consideration he promised 
to send the trail foreman to the San Miguel to pass 
on the cattle on their home range, but advised the 
foreman to gather at least seven hundred steers, 
allowing for two hundred to be culled or cut back. 
Hunter remained over night, departing the next 
morning, delighted over his allowance of cattle and 
the liberal terms of the contract. 

It was understood that, in advance of his outfit, 
the trail foreman would come down by stage, and I 
was sent into Oakville with an extra saddle horse 
to meet him. He had arrived the day previous, and 
we lost no time in starting for Las Palomas. This 
trail foreman was about thirty years of age, a quiet 
red-headed fellow, giving the name of Frank Nan- 
crede, and before we had covered half the distance 
to the ranch I was satisfied that he was a cowman. 
I always prided myself on possessing a good eye 
for brands, but he outclassed me, reading strange 
brands at over a hundred yards, and distinguishing 
cattle from horse stock at a distance of three miles. 

We got fairly well acquainted before reaching 
the ranch, but it was impossible to start him on any 
subject save cattle. I was able to give him a very 
good idea of the remuda, which was then under 
herd and waiting his approval, and I saw the man 
brighten into a smile for the first time on my offer 
ing to help him pick out a good mount for his own 
saddle. I had a vague idea of what the trail was 



92 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

like, and felt the usual boyish attraction for it; 
but when I tried to draw him out in regard to it, 
he advised me, if I had a regular job on a ranch, 
to let trail work alone. 

We reached the ranch late in the evening and I 
introduced Nancrede to Uncle Lance, who took 
charge of him. We had established a horse camp 
for the trail remuda, north of the river, and the 
next morning the trail foreman, my employer, and 
June Deweese, rode over to pass on the saddle 
stock. The remuda pleased him, being fully up to 
the contract standard, and he accepted it with but 
a single exception. This exception tickled Uncle 
Lance, as it gave him an opportunity to annoy his 
sister about Nancrede, as he did about every other 
cowman or drover who visited the ranch. That 
evening, as I was chatting with Miss Jean, who was 
superintending the Mexican help milking at the 
cow pen, Uncle Lance joined us. 

" Say, Sis," said he, " our man Nancrede is a 
cowman all right. I tried to ring in a ' hipped ' 
horse on him this morning, one hip knocked down 
just the least little bit, but he noticed it and re 
fused to accept him. Oh, he 's got an eye in his 
head all right. So if you say so, I '11 give him the 
best horse on the ranch in old Hippy's place. 
You 're always making fun of slab-sided cowmen ; 
he 's pony-built enough to suit you, and I kind o* 
like the color of his hair myself. Did you notice his 
neck ? he '11 never tie it if it gets broken. I like 



SPRING OF '76 93 

a short man; if he stubs his toe and falls down 
he doesn't reach halfway home. Now, if he has 
as good cow sense in receiving the herd as he had 
on the remuda, I 'd kind o' like to have him for a 
brother-in-law. I 'm getting a little too old for ac 
tive work and would like to retire, but June, the 
dura fool, won't get married, and about the only 
show I 've got is to get a husband for you. I 'd as 
lief live in Hades as on a ranch without a woman 
on it. What do you think of him ? " 

" Why, I think he 's an awful nice fellow, but 
he won't talk. And besides, I 'm not baiting my 
hook for small fish like trail foremen ; I was aim 
ing to keep my smiles for the contractors. Are n't 
they coming down ? " 

"Well, they might come to look the herd over 
before it starts out. Now, Dupree is a good cow 
man, but he 's got a wife already. And Camp, the 
financial man of the firm, made his money peddling 
Yankee clocks. Now, you don't suppose for a mo 
ment I 'd let you marry him and carry you away 
from Las Palomas. Marry an old clock peddler ? 
not if he had a million ! The idea ! If they 
come down here and I catch you smiling on old 
Camp, I '11 set the hounds on you. What you want 
to do is to set your cap for Nancrede. Of course, 
you 're ten years the elder, but that need n't cut 
any figure. So just burn a few smiles on the red 
headed trail foreman ! You know you can count 
on your loving brother to help all he can." 



94 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

The conversation was interrupted by our segundo 
and the trail foreman riding up to the cow pen. 
The two had been up the river during the after 
noon, looking over the cattle on the range, for as 
yet we had not commenced gathering. Nancrede 
was very reticent, discovering a conspicuous lack of 
words to express his opinion of what cattle Deweese 
had shown him. 

The second day after the arrival of the trail 
foreman, we divided our forces into two squads and 
started out to gather our three-year-olds. By the 
ranch records, there were over two thousand steers 
of that age in the Las Palomas brand. Deweese 
took ten men and half of the ranch saddle horses 
and went up above the mouth of the Ganso to begin 
gathering. Uncle Lance took the remainder of 
the men and horses and went down the river nearly 
to Shepherd's, leaving Dan Happersett and three 
Mexicans to hold and night-herd the trail remuda. 
Nancrede declined to stay at the ranch and so 
joined our outfit on the down-river trip. We had 
postponed the gathering until the last hour, for 
every day improved the growing grass on which our 
mounts must depend for subsistence, and once we 
started, there would be little rest for men or horses. 

The younger cattle for the herd were made up 
within a week after the invitations were sent to the 
neighboring ranches. Naturally they would be the 
last cattle to be received and would come in for 
delivery between the twentieth and the last of the 



SPRING OF '76 95 

month. With the plans thus outlined, we started 
our gathering. Counting Nancrede, we had twelve 
men in the saddle in our down-river outfit. Taking 
nothing but three-year-olds, we did not accumulate 
cattle fast ; but it was continuous work, every man, 
with the exception of Uncle Lance, standing a 
guard on night-herd. The first two days we only 
gathered about five hundred steers. This number 
was increased by about three hundred on the third 
day, and that evening Dan Happersett with a 
vaquero rode into camp and reported that Nan- 
crede's outfit had arrived from San Antonio. He 
had turned the remuda over to them on their ar 
rival, sending the other two Mexicans to join 
Deweese above on the river. 

The fourth day finished the gathering. Nancrede 
remained with us to the last, making a hand which 
left no doubt in any one's mind that he was a cow 
man from the ground up. The last round-up on the 
afternoon of the fourth day, our outriders sighted 
the vaqueros from Deweese's outfit, circling and 
drifting in the cattle on their half of the circle. 
The next morning the two camps were thrown to 
gether on the river opposite the ranch. Deweese 
had fully as many cattle as we had, and when the 
two cuts had been united and counted, we lacked but 
five head of nineteen hundred. Several of Nan- 
crede's men joined us that morning, and within an 
hour, under the trail foreman's directions, we cut 
back the overplus, and the cattle were accepted. 



96 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

Under the contract we were to road-brand them, 
though Nancrede ordered his men to assist us in 
the work. Under ordinary circumstances we should 
also have vented the ranch brand, but owing to 
the fact that this herd was to be trailed to Abilene, 
Kansas, and possibly sold beyond that point, it was 
unnecessary and therefore omitted. We had a 
branding chute on the ranch for grown cattle, and 
the following morning the herd was corralled and 
the road-branding commenced. The cattle were 
uniform in size, and the stamping of the figure ' 4 ' 
over the holding " Lazy L " of Las Palomas, moved 
like clockwork. With a daybreak start and an 
abundance of help the last animal was ironed up 
before sundown. As a favor to Nancrede 's outfit, 
their camp being nearly five miles distant, we held 
them the first night after branding. 

No sooner had the trail foreman accepted our 
three-year-olds than he and Glen Gallup set out 
for the McLeod ranch on the San Miguel. The 
day our branding was finished, the two returned 
near midnight, reported the San Miguel cattle ac 
cepted and due the next evening at Las Palomas. 
By dawn Nancrede and myself started for Santa 
Maria, the former being deficient in Spanish, the 
only weak point, if it was one, in his make-up as a 
cowman. We were slightly disappointed in not 
finding the cattle ready to pass upon at Santa 
Maria. That ranch was to deliver seven hundred, 
and on our arrival they had not even that number 



SPRING OF '76 97 

under herd. Don Mateo, an easy-going ranchero, 
could not understand the necessity of such haste. 
What did it matter if the cattle were delivered on 
the twenty-fifth or twenty-seventh ? But I explained 
as delicately as I could that this was a trail man, 
whose vocabulary did not contain manana. In in 
terpreting for Nancrede, I learned something of the 
trail myself : that a herd should start with the grass 
and move with it, keeping the freshness of spring, 
day after day and week after week, as they trailed 
northward. The trail foreman assured Don Mateo 
that had his employers known that this was to be 
such an early spring, the herd would have started 
a week sooner. 

By impressing on the ranchero the importance of 
not delaying this trail man, we got him to inject 
a little action into his corporal. We asked Don 
Mateo for horses and, joining his outfit, made three 
rodeos that afternoon, turning into the cattle under 
herd nearly two hundred and fifty head by dark 
that evening. Nancrede spent a restless night, 
and at dawn, as the cattle were leaving the bed 
ground, he and I got an easy count on them and 
culled them down to the required number before 
breakfasting. We had some little trouble explain 
ing to Don Mateo the necessity of giving the bill 
of sale to my employer, who, in turn, would re- 
convey the stock to the contractors. Once the 
matter was made clear, the accepted cattle were 
started for Las Palomas. When we overtook them 



98 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

an hour afterward, I instructed the corporal, at 
the instance of the red-headed foreman, to take a 
day and a half in reaching the ranch ; that tardi 
ness in gathering must not be made up by a hasty 
drive to the point of delivery ; that the animals 
must be treated humanely. 

On reaching the ranch we found that Mr. Booth 
and some of his neighbors had arrived from the 
Frio with their contingent. They had been allotted 
six hundred head, and had brought down about two 
hundred extra cattle in order to allow some choice 
in accepting. These were the only mixed brands 
that came in on the delivery, and after they had 
been culled down and accepted, my employer ap 
pointed Aaron Scales as clerk. There were some 
five or six owners, and Scales must catch the brands 
as they were freed from the branding chute. Sev 
eral of the owners kept a private tally, but not once 
did they have occasion to check up the Maryland- 
er's decisions. Before the branding of this bunch 
was finished, Wilson, from Ramirena, rode into the 
ranch and announced his cattle within five miles of 
Las Palomas. As these were the last two hundred 
to be passed upon, Nancrede asked to have them in 
sight of the ranch by sun-up in the morning. 

On the arrival of the trail outfit from San 
Antonio, they brought a letter from the contract 
ors, asking that a conveyance meet them at Oak- 
ville, as they wished to see the herd before it 
started. Tiburcio went in with the ambulance to 



SPRING OF '76 99 

meet them, and they reached the ranch late at 
night. On their arrival twenty-six hundred of the 
cattle had already been passed upon, branded, and 
were then being held by Nancrede's outfit across 
the river at their camp. Dupree, being a practical 
cowman, understood the situation ; but Camp was 
restless and uneasy as if he expected to find the 
cattle in the corrals at the ranch. Camp was years 
the older of the two, a pudgy man with a florid com 
plexion and nasal twang, and kept the junior mem 
ber busy answering his questions. Uncle Lance 
enjoyed the situation, jollying his sister about the 
elder contractor and quietly inquiring of the red- 
haired foreman how and where Dupree had picked 
him up. 

The contractors had brought no saddles with 
them, so the ambulance was the only mode of 
travel. As we rode out to receive the Wilson cat 
tle the next morning, Uncle Lance took advantage 
of the occasion to jolly Nancrede further about the 
senior member of the firm, the foreman smiling 
appreciatingly. " The way your old man talked 
last night," said he, " you 'd think he expected to 
find the herd in the front yard. Too bad to disap 
point him ; for then he could have looked them over 
with a lantern from the gallery of the house. Now, 
if they had been Yankee clocks instead of cattle, 
why, he 'd been right at home, and could have taken 
them in the house and handled them easily. It cer 
tainly beats the dickens why some men want to 



100 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

break into the cattle business. It won't surprise me 
if he asks you to trail the herd past the ranch so he 
can see them. Well, you and Dupree will have to 
make him some dinero this summer or you will lose 
him for a partner. I can see that sticking out." 

We received and branded the two hundred Wil 
son cattle that forenoon, sending them to the main 
herd across the river. Mr. Wilson and Uncle Lance 
were great cronies, and as the latter was feeling in 
fine fettle over the successful fulfillment of his con 
tract, he was tempted also to jolly his neighbor ran- 
chero over his cattle, which, by the way, were fine. 
" Nate," said he to Mr. Wilson, " it looks like you 'd 
quit breeding goats and rear cattle instead. Hon 
est, if I did n't know your brand, I 'd swear some 
Mexican raised this bunch. These Fort Worth cow 
men are an easy lot, or yours would never have 
passed under the classification." 

An hour before noon, Tomas Martin es, the cor 
poral of Santa Maria, rode up to inquire what 
time we wished his cattle at the corrals. They were 
back several miles, and he could deliver them on an 
hour's notice. One o'clock was agreed upon, and, 
never dismounting, the corporal galloped away to 
his herd. " Quirk," said Nancrede to me, noticing 
the Mexican's unaccustomed air of enterprise, " if 
we had that fellow under us awhile we 'd make a 
cow-hand out of him. See the wiggle he gets on 
himself now, will you ? " Promptly at the hour, the 
herd were counted and corralled, Don Mateo Gon- 



SPRING OF '76 101 

zales not troubling to appear, which was mystifying 
to the North Texas men, but Uncle Lance explained 
that a mere incident like selling seven hundred 
cattle was not sufficient occasion to arouse the 
ranchero of Santa Maria when his corporal could 
attend to the business. 

That evening saw the last of the cattle branded. 
The herd was completed and ready to start the fol 
lowing morning. The two contractors were driven 
across the river during the afternoon to look over 
the herd and remuda. At the instance of my em 
ployer, I wrote a letter of congratulation to Don 
Mateo, handing it to his corporal, informing him 
that in the course of ten days a check would be 
sent him in payment. Uncle Lance had fully inves 
tigated the financial standing of the contractors, but 
it was necessary for him to return with them to San 
Antonio for a final settlement. 

The ambulance made an early start for Oakville 
on the morning of the twenty-sixth, carrying the 
contractors and my employer, and the rest of us 
rode away to witness the start of the herd. Nan- 
crede's outfit numbered fifteen, a cook, a horse 
wrangler, himself, and twelve outriders. They com 
prised an odd mixture of men, several barely my 
age, while others were gray-haired and looked like 
veteran cow-hands. On leaving the Nueces valley, 
the herd was strung out a mile in length, and after 
riding with them until they reached the first hills, 
we bade them good-by. As we started to return 



102 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

Frank Nancrede made a remark to June Deweese 
which I have often recalled: "You fellows may 
think this is a snap ; but if I had a job on as good 
a ranch as Las Palomas, you 'd never catch me on a 
cattle trail." 



CHAPTER VII 
SAN JACINTO DAY 

A FEW days later, when Uncle Lance returned from 
San Antonio, we had a confidential talk, and he 
decided not to send me with the McLeod check to 
the San Miguel. He had reasons of his own, and I 
was dispatched to the Frio instead, while to Enrique 
fell the pleasant task of a similar errand to Santa 
Maria. In order to grind an axe, Glenn Gallup 
was sent down to Wilson's with the settlement for 
the Ramirena cattle, which Uncle Lance made the 
occasion of a jovial expression of his theory of love- 
making. " Don't waste any words with old man 
Nate," said he, as he handed Glenn the check ; " but 
build right up to Miss Jule. Holy snakes, boy, if 
I was your age I would make her dizzy with a 
big talk. Tell her you 're thinking of quitting Las 
Palomas and driving a trail herd yourself next 
year. Tell it big and scary. Make her eyes fairly 
bulge out, and when you can't think of anything 
else, tell her she 's pretty." 

I spent a day or two at the Booth ranch, and on 
my return found the Las Palomas outfit in the sad 
dle working our horse stock. Yearly we made up 
new manadas from the two-year-old fillies. There 



104 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

were enough young mares to form twelve bands 
of about twenty-five head each. In selecting these 
we were governed by standard colors, bays, browns, 
grays, blacks, and sorrels forming separate mana- 
das, while all mongrel colors went into two bands 
by themselves. In the latter class there was a ten 
dency for the colors of the old Spanish stock, 
grullas, coyotes, and other hybrid mixtures, after 
being dormant for generations, to crop out again. 
In breaking these fillies into new bands, we added 
a stallion a year or two older and of acceptable 
color, and they were placed in charge of a trusty 
vaquero, whose duty was to herd them for the first 
month after being formed. The Mexican in charge 
usually took the band round the circuit of the vari 
ous ranchitas, corralling his charge at night, drifting 
at will, so that by the end of the month old asso 
ciations would be severed, and from that time the 
stallion could be depended on as herdsman. 

In gathering the fillies, we also cut out all the 
geldings three years old and upward to break for 
saddle purposes. There were fully two hundred of 
these, and the month of April was spent in saddle- 
breaking this number. They were a fine lot of young 
horses, and under the master eye of two perfect 
horsemen, our segundo and employer, every horse 
was broken with intelligence and humanity. Since 
the day of their branding as colts these geldings had 
never felt the touch of a human hand ; and it re 
quired more than ordinary patience to overcome their 



SAN JACINTO DAY 105 

fear, bring them to a condition of submission, and 
make serviceable ranch horses out of them. The 
most difficult matter was in overcoming their fear. 
It was also necessary to show the mastery of man 
over the animal, though this process was tempered 
with humanity. We had several circular, sandy cor 
rals into which the horse to be broken was admitted 
for the first saddling. As he ran round, a lasso 
skillfully thrown encircled his front feet and he came 
down on his side. One fore foot was strapped up, a 
hackamore or bitless bridle was adjusted in place, 
and he was allowed to arise. After this, all de 
pended on the patience and firmness of the handler. 
Some horses yielded to kind advances and accepted 
the saddle within half an hour, not even offer 
ing to pitch, while others repelled every kindness 
and fought for hours. But in handling the gelding 
of spirit, we could always count on the help of an 
extra saddler. 

While this work was being done, the herd of 
geldings was held close at hand. After the first rid 
ing, four horses were the daily allowance of each 
rider. With the amount of help available, this al 
lowed twelve to fifteen horses to the man, so that 
every animal was ridden once in three or four days. 
Rather than corral, we night-herded, penning them 
by dawn and riding our first horse before sun-up. 
As they gradually yielded, we increased our number 
to six a day and finally before the breaking was 
over to eight. When the work was finally over they 



106 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

were cut into remudas of fifty horses each, furnished 
a gentle bell mare, when possible with a young colt 
by her side, and were turned over to a similar treat 
ment as was given the fillies in forming manadas. 
Thus the different remudas at Las Palomas always 
took the name of the bell mare, and when we were 
at work, it was only necessary for us to hobble the 
princess at night to insure the presence of her band 
in the morning. 

When this month's work was two thirds over, we 
enjoyed a holiday. All good Texans, whether by 
birth or adoption, celebrate the twenty-first of April, 
San Jacinto Day. National holidays may not 
always be observed in sparsely settled communities, 
but this event will remain a great anniversary until 
the sons and daughters of the Lone Star State lose 
their patriotism or forget the blessings of liberty. 
As Shepherd's Ferry was centrally located, it be 
came by common consent the meeting-point for our 
local celebration. Residents from the Frio and San 
Miguel and as far south on the home river as La- 
garto, including the villagers of Oakville, usually 
lent their presence on this occasion. The white ele 
ment of Las Palomas was present without an ex 
ception. As usual, Miss Jean went by ambulance, 
starting the afternoon before and spending the night 
at a ranch above the ferry. Those remaining made 
a daybreak start, reaching Shepherd's by ten in the 
morning. 

While on the way from the ranch to the ferry, I 



SAN JACINTO DAY 107 

was visited with some misgivings as to whether 
Esther McLeod had yet returned from San Antonio. 
At the delivery of San Miguel's cattle at Las Palo- 
mas, Miss Jean had been very attentive to Tony 
Hunter, Esther's brother-in-law, and through him 
she learned that Esther's school closed for the sum 
mer vacation on the fifteenth of April, and that 
within a week afterward she was expected at home. 
Shortly after our reaching the ferry, a number of 
vehicles drove in from Oakville. One of these con 
veyances was an elaborate six-horse stage, owned by 
Bethel & Oxenford, star route mail contractors be 
tween San Antonio and Brownsville, Texas. Seated 
by young Oxenford's side in the driver's box sat 
Esther McLeod, while inside the coach was her sis 
ter, Mrs. Martin, with the senior member of the firm, 
his wife, and several other invited guests. I had 
heard something of the gallantry of young Jack 
Oxenford, who was the nephew of a carpet-bag 
member of Congress, and prided himself on being 
the best whip in the country. In the latter field I 
would gladly have yielded him all honors, but his 
attentions to Esther were altogether too marked to 
please either me or my employer. I am free to ad 
mit that I was troubled by this turn of affairs. The 
junior mail contractor made up in egotism what he 
lacked in appearance, and no doubt had money to 
burn, as star route mail contracting was profitable 
those days, while I had nothing but my monthly 
wages. To make matters more embarrassing, a 



108 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

blind man could have read Mrs. Martin's approval 
of young Oxenford. 

The programme for the forenoon was brief a 
few patriotic songs and an oration by a young law 
yer who had come up from Corpus Christi for the 
occasion. After listening to the opening song, my 
employer and I took a stroll down by the river, as 
we were too absorbed in the new complications to 
pay proper attention to the young orator. 

" Tom," said Uncle Lance, as we strolled away 
from the grove, " we are up against the real thing 
now. I know young Oxenford, and he 's a danger 
ous fellow to have for a rival, if he really is one. 
You can't tell much about a Yankee, though, for 
he 's usually egotistical enough to think that every 
girl in the country is breaking her neck to win him. 
The worst of it is, this young fellow is rich 
he 's got dead oodles of money and he 's making 
more every hour out of his mail contracts. One good 
thing is, we understand the situation, and all 's fair 
in love and war. You can see, though, that Mrs. 
Martin has dealt herself a hand in the game. By 
the dough on her fingers she proposes to have a fist 
in the pie. Well, now, son, we '11 give them a run 
for their money or break a tug in the effort. Tom, 
just you play to my lead to-day and we '11 see who 
holds the high cards or knows best how to play 
them. If I can cut him off, that '11 be your chance 
to sail in and do a little close-herding yourself." 

We loitered along the river bank until the oration 



SAN JACINTO DAY 109 

was concluded, my employer giving me quite an in 
teresting account of my rival. It seems that young 
Oxenford belonged to a family then notoriously 
prominent in politics. He had inherited quite a sum 
of money, and, through the influence of his con 
gressional uncle, had been fortunate enough to form 
a partnership with Bethel, a man who knew all 
the ropes in mail contracting. The senior member 
of the firm knew how to shake the tree, while the 
financial resources of the junior member and the 
political influence of his uncle made him a valuable 
man in gathering the plums on their large field of 
star route contracts. Had not exposure interrupted, 
they were due to have made a large fortune out of 
the government. 

On our return to the picnic grounds, the assem 
bly was dispersing for luncheon. Miss Jean had 
ably provided for the occasion, and on reaching our 
ambulance on the outer edge of the grove, Tiburcio 
had coffee all ready and the boys from the home 
ranch began to straggle in for dinner. Miss Jean 
had prevailed on Tony Hunter and his wife, who 
had come down on horseback from the San Miguel, 
to take luncheon with us, and from the hearty greet 
ings which Uncle Lance extended to the guests of 
his sister, I could see that the owner and mistress 
of Las Palomas were diplomatically dividing the 
house of McLeod. I followed suit, making myself 
agreeable to Mrs. Hunter, who was but very few 
years the elder of Esther. Having spent a couple 



110 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

of nights at their ranch, and feeling a certain 
comradeship with her husband, I decided before 
dinner was over that I had a friend and ally in 
Tony's wife. There was something romantic about 
the young matron, as any one could see, and since 
the sisters favored each other in many ways, I had 
hopes that Esther might not overvalue Jack Oxen- 
ford's money. 

After luncheon, as we were on our way to the 
dancing arbor, we met the Oakville party with 
Esther in tow. I was introduced to Mrs. Martin, 
who, in turn, made me acquainted with her friends, 
including her sister, perfectly unconscious that we 
were already more than mere acquaintances. From 
the demure manner of Esther, who accepted the 
introduction as a matter of course, I surmised she 
was concealing our acquaintance from her sister 
and my rival. We had hardly reached the arbor be 
fore Uncle Lance created a diversion and interested 
the mail contractors with a glowing yarn about a 
fine lot of young mules he had at the ranch, large 
enough for stage purposes. There was some doubt 
expressed by the stage men as to their size and 
weight, when my employer invited them to the 
outskirts of the grove, where he would show them 
a sample in our ambulance team. So he led them 
away, and I saw that the time had come to play 
to my employer's lead. The music striking up, I 
claimed Esther for the first dance, leaving Mrs. 
Martin, for the time being, in charge of her sister 



SAN JACINTO DAY 111 

and Miss Jean. Before the first waltz ended I 
caught sight of all three of the ladies mingling in 
the dance. It was a source of no small satisfac 
tion to me to see my two best friends, Deweese 
and Gallup, dancing with the married sisters, while 
Miss Jean was giving her whole attention to her 
partner, Tony Hunter. With the entire Las Palo- 
mas crowd pulling strings in my interest, and 
Esther, in the absence of Oxen ford, becoming ex 
tremely gracious, I grew bold and threw out my 
chest like the brisket on a beef steer. 

I permitted no one to separate me from Esther. 
We started the second dance together, but no 
sooner did I see her sister, Mrs. Martin, whirl by 
us in the polka with Dan Happersett, than I sug 
gested that we drop out and take a stroll. She con 
sented, and we were soon out of sight, wandering 
in a labyrinth of lover's lanes which abounded 
throughout this live-oak grove. On reaching the 
outskirts of the picnic grounds, we came to an ex 
tensive opening in which our saddle horses were 
picketed. At a glance Esther recognized Wolf, the 
horse I had ridden the Christmas before when pass 
ing their ranch. Being a favorite saddle horse 
of the old ranchero, he was reserved for special 
occasions, and Uncle Lance had ridden him down 
to Shepherd's on this holiday. Like a bird freed 
from a cage, the ranch girl took to the horses and 
insisted on a little ride. Since her proposal alone 
prevented my making a similar suggestion, I allowed 



112 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

myself to be won over, but came near getting caught 
in protesting. " But you told me at the ranch that 
Wolf was one of ten in your Las Palomas mount," 
she poutingly protested. 

" He is," I insisted, " but I have loaned him to 
Uncle Lance for the day." 

" Throw the saddle on him then I '11 tell Mr. 
Lovelace when we return that I borrowed his horse 
when he was n't looking." 

Had she killed the horse, I felt sure that the 
apology would have been accepted ; so, throwing 
saddles on the black and my own mount, we were 
soon scampering down the river. The inconven 
ience of a man's saddle, or the total absence of any, 
was a negligible incident to this daughter of the 
plains. A mile down the river, we halted and wa 
tered the horses. Then, crossing the stream, we 
spent about an hour circling slowly about on the 
surrounding uplands, never being over a mile from 
the picnic grounds. It was late for the first flora 
of the season, but there was still an abundance of 
blue bonnets. Dismounting, we gathered and wove 
wreaths for our horses' necks, and wandered pick 
ing the Mexican strawberries which grew plentifully 
on every hand. 

But this was all preliminary to the main ques 
tion. When it came up for discussion, this one of 
Quirk's boys made the talk of his life in behalf of 
Thomas Moore. Nor was it in vain. When Esther 
apologized for the rudeness her mother had shown 



SAN JACINTO DAY 113 

me at her home, that afforded me the opening for 
which I was longing. We were sitting on a grassy 
hummock, weaving garlands, when I replied to the 
apology by declaring my intention of marrying 
her, with or without her mother's consent. Un 
conventional as the declaration was, to my surprise 
she showed neither offense nor wonderment. Drop 
ping the flowers with which we were working, she 
avoided my gaze, and, turning slightly from me, 
began watching our horses, which had strayed away 
some distance. But I gave her little time for med 
itation, and when I aroused her from her reverie, 
she rose, saying, " We 'd better go back they '11 
miss us if we stay too long." 

Before complying with her wish, I urged an an 
swer ; but she, artfully avoiding my question, in 
sisted on our immediate return. Being in a quandary 
as to what to say or do, I went after the horses, which 
was a simple proposition. On my return, while we 
were adjusting the garlands about the necks of our 
mounts, I again urged her for an answer, but in 
vain. We stood for a moment between the two 
horses, and as I lowered my hand on my knee to 
afford her a stepping-stone in mounting, I thought 
she did not offer to mount with the same alacrity 
as she had done before. Something flashed through 
my addled mind, and, withdrawing the hand prof 
fered as a mounting block, I clasped the demure 
maiden closely in my arms. What transpired has 
no witnesses save two saddle horses, and as Wolf 



114 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

usually kept an eye on his rider in mounting, I 
dropped the reins and gave him his freedom rather 
than endure his scrutiny. When we were finally 
aroused from this delicious trance, the horses had 
strayed away fully fifty yards, but I had received 
a favorable answer, breathed in a voice so low and 
tender that it haunts me yet. 

As we rode along, returning to the grove, Esther 
requested that our betrothal be kept a profound 
secret. No doubt she had good reasons, and it was 
quite possible that there then existed some com 
plications which she wished to conceal, though I 
avoided all mention of any possible rival. Since 
she was not due to return to her school before 
September, there seemed ample time to carry out 
our intentions of marrying. But as we jogged 
along, she informed me that after spending a few 
weeks with her sister in Oakville, it was her inten 
tion to return to the San Miguel for the summer. 
To allay her mother's distrust, it would be better 
for me not to call at the ranch. But this was easily 
compensated for when she suggested making sev 
eral visits during the season with the Vaux girls, 
chums of hers, who lived on the Frio about thirty 
miles due north of Las Palomas. This was fortu 
nate, since the Vaux ranch and ours were on the 
most friendly terms. 

We returned by the route by which we had left 
the grounds. I repicketed the horses and we were 
soon mingling again with the revelers, having been 



SAN JACINTO DAY 115 

absent little over an hour. No one seemed to have 
taken any notice of our absence. Mrs. Martin, I 
rejoiced to see, was still in tow of her sister and 
Miss Jean, and from the circle of Las Palomas 
courtiers who surrounded the ladies, I felt sure they 
had given her no opportunity even to miss her 
younger sister. Uncle Lance was the only member 
of our company absent, but I gave myself no un 
easiness about him, since the mail contractors were 
both likewise missing. Eejoining our friends and 
assuming a nonchalant air, I flattered myself that 
my disguise was perfect. 

During the remainder of the afternoon, in view 
of the possibility that Esther might take her sister, 
Mrs. Martin, into our secret and win her as an 
ally, I cultivated that lady's acquaintance, dancing 
with her and leaving nothing undone to foster 
her friendship. Near the middle of the afternoon, 
as the three sisters, Miss Jean, and I were indulg 
ing in light refreshment at a booth some distance 
from the dancing arbor, I sighted my employer, 
Dan Happersett, and the two stage men returning 
from the store. They passed near, not observing us, 
and from the defiant tones of Uncle Lance's voice, 
I knew they had been tampering with the * pri 
vate stock ' of the merchant at Shepherd's. " Why, 
gentlemen," said he, " that ambulance team is no 
exception to the quality of mules I 'm raising at 
Las Palomas. Drive up some time and spend a few 
days and take a look at the stock we 're breeding. 



116 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

If you will, and I don't show you fifty mules four 
teen and a half hands or better, I '11 round up five 
hundred head and let you pick fifty as a pelon for 
your time and trouble. Why, gentlemen, Las Pa- 
lomas has sold mules to the government." 

On the return of our party to the arbor, Happer- 
sett claimed a dance with Esther, thus freeing me. 
Uncle Lance was standing some little distance away, 
still entertaining the mail contractors, and I edged 
near enough to notice Oxenford's florid face and 
leery eye. But on my employer's catching sight of 
me, he excused himself to the stage men, and tak 
ing my arm led me off. Together we promenaded 
out of sight of the crowd. " How do you like my 
style of a man herder ? " inquired the old match 
maker, once we were out of hearing. " Why, Tom, 
I 'd have held those mail thieves until dark, if Dan 
had n't drifted in and given me the wink. Shepherd 
kicked like a bay steer on letting me have a second 
quart bottle, but it took that to put the right glaze 
in the young Yank's eye. Oh, I had him going 
south all right ! But tell me, how did you and 
Esther make it ? " 

We had reached a secluded spot, and, seating 
ourselves on an old fallen tree trunk, I told of my 
success, even to the using of his horse. Never be 
fore or since did I see Uncle Lance give way to 
such a fit of hilarity as he indulged in over the 
perfect working out of our plans. With his hat he 
whipped me, the ground, the log on which we sat, 



SAN JACINTO DAY 117 

while his peals of laughter rang out like the reports 
of a rifle. In his fit of ecstasy, tears of joy stream 
ing from his eyes, he kept repeating again and again, 
" Oh, sister, run quick and tell pa to come ! " 

As we neared the grounds returning, he stopped 
me and we had a further brief confidential talk to 
gether. I was young and egotistical enough to think 
that I could defy all the rivals in existence, but 
he cautioned me, saying : " Hold on, Tom. You 're 
young yet ; you know nothing about the weaker 
sex, absolutely nothing. It 's not your fault, but due 
to your mere raw youth. Now, listen to me, son : 
Don't underestimate any rival, particularly if he 
has gall and money, most of all, money. Humanity 
is the same the world over, and while you may not 
have seen it here among the ranches, it is natural 
for a woman to rave over a man with money, even 
if he is only a pimply excuse for a creature. Still, 
I don't see that we have very much to fear. We 
can cut old lady McLeod out of the matter entirely. 
But then there 's the girl's sister, Mrs. Martin, and 
I look for her to cut up shameful when she smells 
the rat, which she 's sure to do. And then there 's 
her husband to figure on. If the ox knows his mas 
ter's crib, it 's only reasonable to suppose that Jack 
Martin knows where his bread and butter comes 
from. These stage men will stick up for each other 
like thieves. Now, don't you be too crack sure. 
Be just a trifle leary of every one, except, of course, 
the Las Palomas outfit." 



118 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

I admit that I did not see clearly the reasoning 
behind much of this lecture, but I knew better than 
reject the advice of the old matchmaker with his 
sixty odd years of experience. I was still meditating 
over his remarks when we rejoined the crowd and 
were soon separated among the dancers. Several 
urged me to play the violin ; but I was too busy 
looking after my own fences, and declined the invi 
tation. Casting about for the Vaux girls, I found 
the eldest, with whom I had a slight acquaintance, 
being monopolized by Theodore Quayle and John 
Cotton, friendly rivals and favorites of the young 
lady. On my imploring the favor of a dance, she 
excused herself, and joined me on a promenade 
about the grounds, missing one dance entirely. In 
arranging matters with her to send me word on 
the arrival of Esther at their ranch, I attempted to 
make her show some preference between my two 
comrades, under the pretense of knowing which one 
to bring along, but she only smiled and maintained 
an admirable neutrality. 

After a dance I returned the elder Miss Vaux to 
the tender care of John Cotton, and caught sight 
of my employer leaving the arbor for the refresh 
ment booth with a party of women, including Mrs. 
Martin and Esther McLeod, to whom he was pay 
ing the most devoted attention. Witnessing the 
tireless energy of the old matchmaker, and in a 
quarter where he had little hope of an ally, brought 
me to thinking that there might be good cause for 



SAN JACINTO DAY 119 

alarm in his warnings not to be overconfident. 
Miss Jean, whom I had not seen since luncheon, 
aroused me from my reverie, and on her wishing to 
know my motive for cultivating the acquaintance 
of Miss Vaux and neglecting my own sweetheart, I 
told her the simple truth. " Good idea, Tom," she 
assented. " I think I '11 just ask Miss Frances home 
with me to spend Sunday. Then you can take her 
across to the Frio on horseback, so as not to offend 
either John or Theodore. What do you think? " 

I thought it was a good idea, and said so. At 
least the taking of the young lady home would be 
a pleasanter task for me than breaking horses. But 
as I expressed myself so, I could not help thinking, 
seeing Miss Jean's zeal in the matter, that the 
matchmaking instinct was equally well developed 
on both sides of the Lovelace family. 

The afternoon was drawing to a close. The fes 
tivities would conclude by early sundown. Miss 
Jean would spend the night again at the halfway 
ranch, returning to Las Palomas the next morning ; 
we would start on our return with the close of the 
amusements. Many who lived at a distance had al 
ready started home. It lacked but a few minutes 
of the closing hour when I sought out Esther for the 
" Home, Sweet Home " waltz, finding her in com 
pany of Oxenford, chaperoned by Mrs. Martin, of 
which there was need. My sweetheart excused her 
self with a poise that made my heart leap, and as 
we whirled away in the mazes of the final dance, 



120 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

rivals and all else passed into oblivion. Before we 
could realize the change in the music, the orchestra 
had stopped, and struck into " My Country, 't is of 
Thee," in which the voice of every patriotic Texan 
present swelled the chorus until it echoed through 
out the grove, befittingly closing San Jacinto Day. 



CHAPTER VIII 
A CAT HUNT ON THE FRIO 

THE return of Miss Jean the next forenoon, ac 
companied by Frances Vaux, was an occasion of 
more than ordinary moment at Las Palomas. The 
Vaux family were of Creole extraction, but had set 
tled on the Frio River nearly a generation before. 
Under the climatic change, from the swamps of 
Louisiana to the mesas of Texas, the girls grew up 
fine physical specimens of rustic Southern beauty. 
To a close observer, certain traces of the French 
were distinctly discernible in Miss Frances, nota 
bly in the large, lustrous eyes, the swarthy com 
plexion, and early maturity of womanhood. Small 
wonder then that our guest should have played 
havoc among the young men of the countryside, 
adding to her train of gallants the devoted Quayle 
and Cotton of Las Palomas. 

Aside from her charming personality, that Miss 
Vaux should receive a cordial welcome at Las Pa 
lomas goes without saying, since there were many 
reasons why she should. The old ranchero and his 
sister chaperoned the young lady, while I, betrothed 
to another, became her most obedient slave. It is 
needless to add that there was a fair field and no 



122 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

favor shown by her hosts, as between John and 
Theodore. The prize was worthy of any effort. 
The best man was welcome to win, while the bless 
ings of master and mistress seemed impatient to 
descend on the favored one. 

In the work in hand, I was forced to act as a 
rival to my friends, for I could not afford to lower 
my reputation for horsemanship before Miss Fran 
ces, when my betrothed was shortly to be her guest. 
So it was not to be wondered at that Quayle and 
Cotton should abandon the medeno in mounting 
their unbroken geldings, and I had to follow suit 
or suffer by comparison. The other rascals, equal 
if not superior to our trio in horsemanship, includ 
ing Enrique, born with just sense enough to be a 
fearless vaquero, took to the heavy sand in mount 
ing vicious geldings; but we three jauntily gave 
the wildest horses their heads and even encouraged 
them to buck whenever our guest was sighted on 
the gallery. What gave special vim to our work 
was the fact that Miss Frances was a horsewoman 
herself, and it was with difficulty that she could 
be kept away from the corrals. Several times a 
day our guest prevailed on Uncle Lance to take 
her out to witness the roping. From a safe van 
tage place on the palisades, the old ranchero and 
his protege would watch us catching, saddling, and 
mounting the geldings. Under those bright eyes, 
lariats encircled the feet of the horse to be ridden 
ieftly indeed, and he was laid on his side in the 




GAVE THE WILDEST HORSES THEIR HEADS 



A CAT HUNT ON THE FRIO 123 

sand as daintily as a mother would lay her babe in 
its crib. Outside of the trio, the work of the gang 
was bunglesome, calling for many a protest from 
Uncle Lance, they had no lady's glance to spur 
them on, while ours merited the enthusiastic 
plaudits of Miss Frances. 

Then came Sunday and we observed the com 
mandment. Miss Jean had planned a picnic for the 
day on the river. We excused Tiburcio, and pressed 
the ambulance team into service to convey the 
party of six for the day's outing among the fine 
groves of elm that bordered the river in several 
places, and afforded ample shade from the sun. The 
day was delightfully spent. The chaperons were 
negligent and dilatory. Uncle Lance even fell 
asleep for several hours. But when we returned at 
twilight, the ambulance mules were garlanded as if 
for a wedding party. 

The next morning our guest was to depart, and 
to me fell the pleasant task of acting as her escort. 
Uncle Lance prevailed on Miss Frances to ride a 
spirited chestnut horse from his mount, while I 
rode a grulla from my own. We made an early 
start, the old ranchero riding with us as far as the 
river. As he held the hand of Miss Vaux in part 
ing, he cautioned her not to detain me at their 
ranch, as he had use for me at Las Palomas. " Of 
course," said he, " I don't mean that you shall 
hurry him right off to-day or even to-morrow. But 
these lazy rascals of mine will hang around a girl a 



124 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

week, if she '11 allow it. Had John or Theodore 
taken you home, I should n't expect to see either 
of them in a fortnight. Now, if they don't treat 
you right at home, come back and live with us. 
I '11 adopt you as my daughter. And tell your pa 
that the first general rain that falls, I 'm coming 
over with my hounds for a cat hunt with him. 
Good-by, sweetheart." 

It was a delightful ride across to the Frio. 
Mounted on two splendid horses, we put the Nueces 
behind us as the hours passed. Frequently we met 
large strings of cattle drifting in towards the river 
for their daily drink, and Miss Frances insisted on 
riding through the cows, noticing every brand as 
keenly as a vaquero on the lookout for strays from 
her father's ranch. The young calves scampered 
out of our way, but their sedate mothers permitted 
us to ride near enough to read the brands as we 
met and passed. Once we rode a mile out of our 
way to look at a manada. The stallion met us as 
we approached as if to challenge all intruders on 
his domain, but we met him defiantly and he turned 
aside and permitted us to examine his harem and 
its frolicsome colts. 

But when cattle and horses no longer served as 
a subject, and the wide expanse of flowery mesa, 
studded here and there with Spanish daggers whose 
creamy flowers nodded to us as we passed, ceased 
to interest us, we turned to the ever interesting 
subject of sweethearts. But try as I might, I could 



A CAT HUNT ON THE FRIO 125 

never wring any confession from her which even 
suggested a preference among her string of admir 
ers. On the other hand, when she twitted me about 
Esther, I proudly plead guilty of a Platonic friend 
ship which some day I hoped would ripen into 
something more permanent, fully realizing that the 
very first time these two chums met there would 
be an interchange of confidences. And in the full 
knowledge that during these whispered admissions 
the truth would be revealed, I stoutly denied that 
Esther and I were even betrothed. 

But during that morning's ride I made a friend 
and ally of Frances Vaux. There was some talk of 
a tournament to be held during the summer at 
Campbellton on the Atascosa. She promised that 
she would detain Esther for it and find a way to 
send me word, and we would make up a party and 
attend it together. I had never been present at 
any of these pastoral tourneys and was hopeful that 
one would be held within reach of our ranch, for I 
had heard a great deal about them and was anxious 
to see one. But this was only one of several social 
outings which she outlined as on her summer pro 
gramme, to all of which I was cordially invited as a 
member of her party. There was to be a dance on 
St. John's Day at the Mission, a barbecue in June 
on the San Miguel, and other local meets for the 
summer and early fall. By the time we reached the 
ranch, I was just beginning to realize that, socially, 
Shepherd's Ferry and the Nueces was a poky place. 



126 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

The next morning I returned to Las Palomas. 
The horse-breaking was nearing an end. During 
the month of May we went into camp on a new 
tract of land which had been recently acquired, to 
build a tank on a dry arroyo which crossed this 
last landed addition to the ranch. It was a com 
mercial peculiarity of Uncle Lance to acquire land 
but never to part with it under any consideration. 
To a certain extent, cows and land had become his 
religion, and whenever either, adjoining Las Palo 
mas, was for sale, they were looked upon as a safe 
bank of deposit for any surplus funds. The last 
tract thus secured was dry, but by damming the 
arroyo we could store water in this tank or reser 
voir to tide over the dry spells. All the Mexican 
help on the ranch was put to work with wheelbar 
rows, while six mule teams ploughed, scraped, and 
hauled rock, one four-mule team being constantly 
employed in hauling water over ten miles for camp 
and stock purposes. This dry stream ran water, 
when conditions were favorable, several months 
in the year, and by building the tank our cattle 
capacity would be largely increased. 

One evening, late in the month, when the water 
wagon returned, Tiburcio brought a request from 
Miss Jean, asking me to come into the ranch that 
night. Kesponding to the summons, I was rewarded 
by finding a letter awaiting me from Frances Vaux, 
left by a vaquero passing from the Frio to Santa 
Maria. It was a dainty missive, informing me that 



A CAT HUNT ON THE FRIO 127 

Esther was her guest ; that the tournament would 
not take place, but to be sure and come over on 
Sunday. Personally the note was satisfactory, but 
that I was to bring any one along was artfully 
omitted. Being thus forced to read between the 
lines, on my return to camp the next morning by 
dawn, without a word of explanation, I submitted 
the matter to John and Theodore. Uncle Lance, of 
course, had to know what had called me in to the 
ranch, and, taking the letter from Quayle, read it 
himself. 

" That's plain enough," said he, on the first read 
ing. " John will go with you Sunday, and if it rains 
next month, I '11 take Theodore with me when I go 
over for a cat hunt with old man Pierre. I '11 let him 
act as master of the horse, no, of the hounds, 
and give him a chance to toot his own horn with 
Frances. Honest, boys, I 'm getting disgusted with 
the white element of Las Palomas. We raise most 
everything here but white babies. Even Enrique, 
the rascal, has to live in camp now to hold down his 
breakfast. But you young whites with the coun 
try just full of young women well, it 's certainly 
discouraging. I do all I can, and Sis helps a little, 
but what does it amount to what are the results ? 
That poem that Jean reads to us occasionally must 
be right. I reckon the Caucasian is played out." 

Before the sun was an hour high, John Cotton 
and myself rode into the Vaux ranch on Sunday 
morning. The girls gave us a cheerful welcome. 



128 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

While we were breakfasting, several other lads and 
lasses rode up, and we were informed that a little 
picnic for the day had been arranged. As this was 
to our liking, John and I readily acquiesced, and 
shortly afterward a mounted party of about a dozen 
young folks set out for a hackberry grove, up the 
river several miles. Lunch baskets were taken along, 
but no chaperons. The girls were all dressed in 
cambric and muslin and as light in heart as the 
fabrics and ribbons they flaunted. I was gratified 
with the boldness of Cotton, as he cantered away 
with Frances, and with the day before him there 
was every reason to believe that his cause would be 
advanced. As to myself, with Esther by my side 
the livelong day, I could not have asked the world 
to widen an inch. 

It was midnight when we reached Las Palomas 
returning. As we rode along that night, John con 
fessed to me that Frances was a tantalizing enigma. 
Up to a certain point, she offered every encourage 
ment, but beyond that there seemed to be a dead 
line over which she allowed no sentiment to pass. 
It was plain to be seen that he was discouraged, but 
I told him I had gone through worse ordeals. 

Throughout southern Texas and the country trib 
utary to the Nueces River, we always looked for our 
heaviest rainfall during the month of June. This 
year in particular, we were anxious to see a regular 
downpour to start the arroyo and test our new tank. 
Besides, we had sold for delivery in July, twelve hun- 



A CAT HUNT ON THE FRIO 129 

dred beef steers for shipment at Rockport on the 
coast. If only a soaking rain would fall, making 
water plentiful, we could make the drive in little 
over a hundred miles, while a dry season would compel 
us to follow the river nearly double the distance. 

We were riding our range thoroughly, locating our 
fattest beeves, when one evening as June Deweese 
and I were on the way back from the Ganso, a 
regular equinoctial struck us, accompanied by a 
downpour of rain and hail. Our horses turned their 
backs to the storm, but we drew slickers over our 
heads, and defied the elements. Instead of letting 
up as darkness set in, the storm seemed to increase 
in fury and we were forced to seek shelter. We 
were at least fifteen miles from the ranch, and it 
was simply impossible to force a horse against that 
sheeting rain. So turning to catch the storm in our 
backs, we rode for a ranchita belonging to Las Pa- 
lomas. By the aid of flashes of lightning and the 
course of the storm, we reached the little ranch and 
found a haven. A steady rain fell all night, contin 
uing the next day, but we saddled early and rode 
for our new reservoir on the arroyo. Imagine our 
surprise on sighting the embankment to see two 
horsemen ride up from the opposite direction and 
halt at the dam. Giving rein to our horses and gal 
loping up, we found they were Uncle Lance and 
Theodore Quayle. Above the dam the arroyo was 
running like a mill-tail. The water in the reservoir 
covered several acres and had backed up stream 



130 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

nearly a quarter mile, the deepest point in the tank 
reaching my saddle skirts. The embankment had 
settled solidly, holding the gathering water to our 
satisfaction, and after several hours' inspection we 
rode for home. 

With this splendid rain, Las Palomas ranch took 
on an air of activity. The old ranchero paced the 
gallery for hours in great glee, watching the down 
pour. It was too soon yet by a week to gather the 
beeves. But under the glowing prospect, we could 
not remain inert. The next morning the segundo 
took all the teams and returned to the tank to watch 
the dam and haul rock to rip-rap the flanks of the 
embankment. Taking extra saddle horses with us, 
Uncle Lance, Dan Happersett, Quayle, and myself 
took the hounds and struck across for the Frio. On 
reaching the Vaux ranch, as showers were still 
falling and the underbrush reeking with moisture, 
wetting any one to the skin who dared to invade it, 
we did not hunt that afternoon. Pierre Vaux was 
enthusiastic over the rain, while his daughters were 
equally so over the prospects of riding to the hounds, 
there being now nearly forty dogs in the double 
pack. 

At the first opportunity, Frances confided to me 
that Mrs. McLeod had forbidden Esther visiting 
them again, since some busybody had carried the 
news of our picnic to her ears. But she promised 
me that if I could direct the hunt on the morrow 
within a few miles of the McLeod ranch, she would 



A CAT HUNT ON THE FRIO 131 

entice my sweetheart out and give me a chance to 
meet her. There was a roguish look in Miss Fran 
ces's eye during this disclosure which I was unable to 
fathom, but I promised during the few days' hunt 
to find some means to direct the chase within strik 
ing distance of the ranch on the San Miguel. 

I promptly gave this bit of news in confidence 
to Uncle Lance, and was told to lie low and leave 
matters to him. That evening, amid clouds of to 
bacco smoke, the two old rancheros discussed the 
best hunting in the country, while we youngsters 
danced on the gallery to the strains of a fiddle. I 
heard Mr. Vaux narrating a fight with a cougar 
which killed two of his best dogs during the winter 
just passed, and before we retired it was understood 
that we would give the haunts of this same old cou 
gar our first attention. 



CHAPTER IX 
THE ROSE AND ITS THORN 

DAWN found the ranch astir and a heavy fog hang 
ing over the Frio valley. Don Pierre had a remuda 
corralled before sun-up, and insisted on our riding 
his horses, an invitation which my employer alone 
declined. For the first hour or two the pack scouted 
the river bottoms with no success, and Uncle 
Lance's verdict was that the valley was too soggy 
for any animal belonging to the cat family, so we 
turned back to the divide between the Frio and San 
Miguel. Here there grew among the hills many 
Guajio thickets, and from the first one we beat, the 
hounds opened on a hot trail in splendid chorus. 
The pack led us through thickets for over a mile, 
when they suddenly turned down a ravine, heading 
for the river. With the ground in splendid condi 
tion for trailing, the dogs in full cry, the quarry 
sought every shelter possible ; but within an hour 
of striking the scent, the pack came to bay in the 
encinal. On coming up with the hounds, we found 
the animal was a large catamount. A single shot 
brought him from his perch in a scraggy oak, and 
the first chase of the day was over. The pelt was 
worthless and was not taken. 



THE ROSE AND ITS THORN 133 

It was nearly noon when the kill was made, and 
Don Pierre insisted that we return to the ranch. 
Uncle Lance protested against wasting the re 
mainder of the day, but the courteous Creole urged 
that the ground would be in fine condition for hunt- 

O 

ing at least a week longer ; this hunt he declared 
was merely preliminary to break the pack to 
gether and give them a taste of the chase before 
attacking the cougar. " Ah," said Don Pierre, with 
a deprecating shrug of the shoulders, "you have 
nothing to hurry you home. I come by your rancho 
an' stay one hoF week. You come by mine, al' time 
hurry. Sacre* ! Let de li'l dogs rest, an' in de 
mornin', mebbe we hunt de cougar. Ah, Meester 
Lance, we must naff de pack fresh for him. By 
Gar, he was one dam' wil' fellow. Mek one two 
pass, so. Biff ! two dog dead." 

Uncle Lance yielded, and we rode back to the 
ranch. The next morning our party included the 
three daughters of our host. Don Pierre led the way 
on a roan stallion, and after two hours' riding we 
crossed the San Miguel to the north of his ranch. 
A few miles beyond we entered some chalky hills, 
interspersed with white chaparral thickets which 
were just bursting into bloom, with a fragrance that 
was almost intoxicating. Under the direction of 
our host, we started to beat a long chain of these 
thickets, and were shortly rewarded by hearing the 
pack give mouth. The quarry kept to the cover of 
the thickets for several miles, impeding the chase 



134 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

until the last covert in the chain was reached, where 
a fight occurred with the lead hound. Don Pierre 
was the first to reach the scene, and caught sev 
eral glimpses of a monster puma as he slunk away 
through the Brazil brush, leaving one of the Don's 
favorite hounds lacerated to the bone. But the pack 
passed on, and, lifting the wounded dog to a va- 
quero's saddle, we followed, lustily shouting to the 
hounds. 

The spoor now turned down the San Miguel, and 
the pace was such that it took hard riding to keep 
within hearing. Mr. Vaux and Uncle Lance usu 
ally held the lead, the remainder of the party, in 
cluding the girls, bringing up the rear. The chase 
continued down stream for fully an hour, until we 
encountered some heavy timber on the main Frio, 
our course having carried us several miles to the 
north of the McLeod ranch. Some distance below 
the juncture with the San Miguel the river made a 
large horseshoe, embracing nearly a thousand acres, 
which was covered with a dense growth of ash, 
pecan, and cypress. The trail led into this jungle, 
circling it several times before leading away. We 
were fortunately able to keep track of the chase 
from the baying of the hounds without entering 
the timber, and were watching its course, when sud 
denly it changed ; the pack followed the scent across 
a bridge of driftwood on the Frio, and started up 
the river in full cry. 

As the chase down the San Miguel passed beyond 



THE ROSE AND ITS THORN 135 

the mouth of the creek, Theodore Quayle and Fran 
ces Vaux dropped out and rode for the McLeod 
ranch. It was still early in the day, and under 
standing their motive, I knew they would rejoin 
us if their mission was successful. By the sudden 
turn of the chase, we were likely to pass several 
miles south of the home of my sweetheart, but our 
location could be easily followed by the music of 
the pack. Within an hour after leaving us, Theo 
dore and Frances rejoined the chase, adding Tony 
Hunter and Esther to our numbers. With this ad 
dition, I lost interest in the hunt, as the course 
carried us straightaway five miles up the stream. 
The quarry was cunning and delayed the pack at 
every thicket or large body of timber encountered. 
Several times he craftily attempted to throw the 
hounds off the scent by climbing leaning trees, only 
to spring down again. But the pack were running 
wide and the ruse was only tiring the hunted. The 
scent at times left the river and circled through 
outlying mesquite groves, always keeping well under 
cover. On these occasions we rested our horses, for 
the hunt was certain to return to the river. 

From the scattering order in which we rode, I 
was afforded a good opportunity for free conversa 
tion with Esther. But the information I obtained 
was not very encouraging. Her mother's authority 
had grown so severe that existence under the same 
roof was a mere armistice between mother and 
daughter, while this day's sport was likely to break 



136 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

the already strained relations. The thought that 
her suffering was largely on my account, nerved ine 
to resolution. 

The kill was made late in the day, in a bend of 
the river, about fifteen miles above the Vaux ranch, 
forming a jungle of several thousand acres. In this 
thickety covert the fugitive made his final stand, 
taking refuge in an immense old live-oak, the mossy 
festoons of which partially screened him from view. 
The larger portion of the cavalcade remained in 
the open, but the rest of us, under the leadership of 
the two rancheros, forced our horses through the 
underbrush and reached the hounds. The pack were 
as good as exhausted by the long run, and, lest the 
animal should spring out of the tree and escape, we 
circled it at a distance. On catching a fair view of 
the quarry, Uncle Lance called for a carbine. Two 
shots through the shoulders served to loosen the pu 
ma's footing, when he came down by easy stages 
from limb to limb, spitting and hissing defiance 
into the upturned faces of the pack. As he fell, we 
dashed in to beat off the dogs as a matter of precau 
tion, but the bullets had done their work, and the 
pack mouthed the fallen feline with entire impunity. 

Dan Happersett dragged the dead puma out with 
a rope over the neck for the inspection of the girls, 
while our horses, which had had no less than a fifty- 
mile ride, were unsaddled and allowed a roll and a 
half hour's graze before starting back. As we were 
watering our mounts, I caught my employer's ear 



THE ROSE AND ITS THORN 137 

long enough to repeat what I had learned about 
Esther's home difficulties. After picketing our 
horses, we strolled away from the remainder of the 
party, when Uncle Lance remarked : " Tom, your 
chance has come where you must play your hand 
and play it boldly. I '11 keep Tony at the Vaux 
ranch, and if Esther has to go home to-night, why, 
of course, you '11 have to take her. There 's your 
chance to run off and marry. Now, Tom, you 've 
never failed me yet ; and this thing has gone far 
enough. We '11 give old lady McLeod good cause 
to hate us from now on. I 've got some money with 
me, and I '11 rob the other boys, and to-night you 
make a spoon or spoil a horn. Sabe ? " 

I understood and approved. As we jogged along 
homeward, Esther and I fell to the rear, and I out 
lined my programme. Nor did she protest when I sug 
gested that to-night was the accepted time. Before 
we reached the Vaux ranch every little detail was 
arranged. There was a splendid moon, and after 
supper she plead the necessity of returning home. 
Meanwhile every cent my friends possessed had been 
given me, and the two best horses of Las Palomas 
were under saddle for the start. Uncle Lance was 
arranging a big hunt for the morrow with Tony 
Hunter and Don Pierre, when Esther took leave of 
her friends, only a few of whom were cognizant of 
our intended elopement. 

With fresh mounts under us, we soon covered the 
intervening distance between the two ranches. 1 



138 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

would gladly have waived touching at the McLeod 
ranch, but Esther had torn her dress during the day 
and insisted on a change, and I, of necessity, yielded. 
The corrals were at some distance from the main 
buildings, and, halting at a saddle shed adjoining, 
Esther left me and entered the house. Fortunately 
her mother had retired, and after making a hasty 
change of apparel, she returned unobserved to the 
corrals. As we quietly rode out from the inclosure, 
my spirits soared to the moon above us. The night 
was an ideal one. Crossing the Frio, we followed 
the divide some distance, keeping in the open, and 
an hour before midnight forded the Nueces at Shep 
herd's. A flood of recollections crossed my mind, 
as our steaming horses bent their heads to drink at 
the ferry. Less than a year before, in this very grove, 
I had met her ; it was but two months since, on 
those hills beyond, we had gathered flowers, plighted 
our troth, and exchanged our first rapturous kiss. 
And the thought that she was renouncing home and 
all for my sake, softened my heart and nerved me 
to every exertion. 

Our intention was to intercept the south-bound 
stage at the first road house south of Oakville. I 
knew the hour it was due to leave the station, and 
by steady riding we could connect with it at the 
first stage stand some fifteen miles below. Light- 
hearted and happy, we set out on this last lap of our 
ride. Our horses seemed to understand the emer 
gency, as they put the miles behind them, thrilling 



THE ROSE AND ITS THORN 139 

us with their energy and vigor. Never for a moment 
in our flight did my sweetheart discover a single 
qualm over her decision, while in my case all scru 
ples were buried in the hope of victory. Recrossing 
the Nueces and entering the stage road, we followed 
it down several miles, sighting the stage stand about 
two o'clock in the morning. I was saddle weary 
from the hunt, together with this fifty-mile ride, 
and rejoiced in reaching our temporary destination. 
Esther, however, seemed little the worse for the 
long ride. 

The welcome extended by the keeper of this relay 
station was gruff enough. But his tone and manner 
moderated when he learned we were passengers for 
Corpus Christi. When I made arrangements with 
him to look after our horses for a week or ten days 
at a handsome figure, he became amiable, invited us 
to a cup of coffee, and politely informed us that the 
stage was due in half an hour. But on its arrival, 
promptly on time, our hearts sank within us. On the 
driver's box sat an express guard holding across his 
knees a sawed-off, double-barreled shotgun. As it 
halted, two other guards stepped out of the coach, 
similarly armed. The stage was carrying an unusual 
amount of treasure, we were informed, and no pas 
sengers could be accepted, as an attempted robbery 
was expected between this and the next station. 

Our situation became embarrassing. For the first 
time during our ride, Esther showed the timidity 
of her sex. The chosen destination of our honey- 



140 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

moon, nearly a hundred miles to the south, was now 
out of the question. To return to Oakville, where a 
sister and friends of my sweetheart resided, seemed 
the only avenue open. I had misgivings that it was 
unsafe, but Esther urged it, declaring that Mrs. 
Martin would offer no opposition, and even if she 
did, nothing now could come that would ever sep 
arate us. We learned from the keeper that Jack 
Martin was due to drive the north-bound stage out 
of Oakville that morning, and was expected to pass 
this relay station about daybreak. This was favor 
able, and we decided to wait and allow the stage to 
pass north before resuming our journey. 

On the arrival of the stage, we learned that the 
down coach had been attacked, but the robbers, find 
ing it guarded, had fled after an exchange of shots 
in the darkness. This had a further depressing effect 
on my betrothed, and only my encouragement to be 
brave and face the dilemma confronting us kept her 
up. Bred on the frontier, this little ranch girl was 
no weakling ; but the sudden overturn of our well- 
laid plans had chilled my own spirits as well as 
hers. Giving the up stage a good start of us, we 
resaddled and started for Oakville, slightly crest 
fallen but still confident. In the open air Esther's 
fears gradually subsided, and, invigorated by the 
morning and the gallop, we reached our destina 
tion after our night's adventure with hopes buoyant 
and colors flying. 

Mrs. Martin looked a trifle dumfounded at her 



THE ROSE AND ITS THORN 141 

early callers, but I lost no time in informing her 
that our mission was an elopement, and asked her 
approval and blessing. Surprised as she was, she 
welcomed us to breakfast, inquiring of our plans 
and showing alarm over our experience. Since Oak- 
ville was a county seat where a license could be se 
cured, for fear of pursuit I urged an immediate 
marriage, but Mrs. Martin could see no necessity 
for haste. There was, she said, no one there whom 
she would allow to solemnize a wedding of her sis 
ter, and, to my chagrin, Esther agreed with her. 

This was just what I had dreaded ; but Mrs. Mar 
tin, with apparent enthusiasm over our union, took 
the reins in her own hands, and decided that we 
should wait until Jack's return, when we would all 
take the stage to Pleasanton, where an Episcopal 
minister lived. My heart sank at this, for it meant 
a delay of two days, and I stood up and stoutly pro 
tested. But now that the excitement of our flight 
had abated, my own Esther innocently sided with 
her sister, and I was at my wit's end. To all my 
appeals, the sisters replied with the argument that 
there was no hurry that while the hunt lasted at 
the Vaux ranch Tony Hunter could be depended 
upon to follow the hounds ; Esther would never be 
missed until his return ; her mother would suppose 
she was with the Vaux girls, and would be busy pre 
paring a lecture against her return. 

Of course the argument of the sisters won the 
hour. Though dreading some unforeseen danger, I 



142 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

temporarily yielded. I knew the motive of the hunt 
well enough to know that the moment we had an 
ample start it would be abandoned, and the Las 
Palornas contingent would return to the ranch. Yet 
I dare not tell, even my betrothed, that there were 
ulterior motives in my employer's hunting on the 
Frio, one of which was to afford an opportunity for 
our elopement. Full of apprehension and alarm, I 
took a room at the village hostelry, for I had our 
horses to look after, and secured a much-needed 
sleep during the afternoon. That evening I returned 
to the Martin cottage, to urge again that we carry out 
our original programme by taking the south-bound 
stage at midnight. But all I could say was of no 
avail. Mrs. Martin was equal to every suggestion. 
She had all the plans outlined, and there was no 
occasion for me to do any thinking at all. Corpus 
Christi was not to be considered for a single mo 
ment, compared to Pleasanton and an Episcopalian 
service. What could I do ? 

At an early hour Mrs. Martin withdrew. The 
reaction from our escapade had left a pallor on my 
sweetheart's countenance, almost alarming. Noti 
cing this, I took my leave early, hoping that a good 
night's rest would restore her color and her spirits. 
Ke turning to the hostelry, I resignedly sought my 
room, since there was nothing I could do but wait. 
Tossing and pitching on my bed, I upbraided my 
self for having returned to Oakville, where any 
interference with our plans could possibly develop. 



THE ROSE AND ITS THORN 143 

The next morning at breakfast, I noticed that I 
was the object of particular attention, and of no 
very kindly sort. No one even gave me a friendly 
nod, while several avoided my glances. Supposing 
that some rumor of our elopement might be abroad, 
I hurriedly finished my meal and started for the 
Martins'. On reaching the door, I was met by its 
mistress, who, I had need to remind myself, was the 
sister of my betrothed. To my friendly salutation, 
she gave me a scornful, withering look. 

" You 're too late, young man," she said. "Shortly 
after you left last night, Esther and Jack Oxenford 
took a private conveyance for Beeville, and are mar 
ried before this. You Las Palomas people are slow. 
Old Lance Lovelace thought he was playing it cute 
San Jacinto Day, but I saw through his little game. 
Somebody must have told him he was a match 
maker. "Well, just give him my regards, and tell 
him he don't know the first principles of that little 
game. Tell him to drop in some time when he 's 
passing ; I may be able to give him some pointers 
that I 'm not using at the moment. I hope your 
sorrow will not exceed my happiness. Good-morn 
ing, sir." 



CHAPTER X 
AFTERMATH 

MY memory of what happened immediately after 
Mrs. Martin's contemptuous treatment of me is as 
vague and indefinite as the vaporings of a fevered 
dream. I have a faint recollection of several friendly 
people offering their sympathy. The old stableman, 
who looked after the horses, cautioned me not to 
start out alone; but I have since learned that I 
cursed him and all the rest, and rode away as one 
in a trance. But I must have had some little cau 
tion left, for I remember giving Shepherd's a wide 
berth, passing several miles to the south. 

The horses, taking their own way, were wander 
ing home. Any exercise of control or guidance over 
them on my part was inspired by an instinct to avoid 
being seen. Of conscious direction there was none. 
Somewhere between the ferry and the ranch I re 
member being awakened from my torpor by the 
horse which I was leading showing an inclination 
to graze. Then I noticed their gaunted condition, 
and in sympathy for the poor brutes unsaddled 
and picketed them in a secluded spot. What hap 
pened at this halt has slipped from my memory. 
But I must have slept a long time ; for I awoke to 






AFTERMATH 145 

find the moon high overhead, and my watch, through 
neglect, run down and stopped. I now realized the 
better iny predicament, and reasoned with myself 
whether I should return to Las Palomas or not. 
But there was no place else to go, and the horses 
did not belong to me. If I could only reach the 
ranch and secure my own horse, I felt that no power 
on earth could chain me to the scenes of my humilia 
tion. 

The horses decided me to return. Resaddling at 
an unknown hour, I rode for the ranch. The ani 
mals were refreshed and made good time. As I 
rode along I tried to convince myself that I could 
slip into the ranch, secure my own saddle horse, 
and meet no one except the Mexicans. There was 
a possibility that Deweese might still be in camp at 
the new reservoir, and I was hopeful that my em 
ployer might not yet be returned from the hunt on 
the Frio. After a number of hours' riding, the horse 
under saddle nickered. Halting him, I listened and 
heard the roosters crowing in a chorus at the ranch. 
Clouds had obscured the moon, and so by making 
a detour around the home buildings I was able to 
reach the Mexican quarters unobserved. I rode up 
to the house of Enrique, and quietly aroused him ; 
told him my misfortune and asked him to hide me 
until he could get up my horse. We turned the 
animals loose, and, taking my saddle inside thejacal, 
held a whispered conversation. Deweese was yet at 
the tank. If the hunting party had returned, they 



146 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

had done so during the night. The distant range 
of my horse made it impossible to get him before 
the middle of the forenoon, but Enrique and Dona 
Anita assured me that my slightest wish was law 
to them. Furnishing me with a blanket and pillow, 
they made me a couch on a dry cowskin on the dirt 
floor at the foot of their bed, and before day broke 
I had fallen asleep. 

On awakening, I found the sun had already risen. 
Enrique and his wife were missing from the room, 
but a peep through a crevice in the palisade wall re 
vealed Dona Anita in the kitchen adjoining. She 
had detected my awakening, and soon brought me a 
cup of splendid coffee, which I drank with relish. 
She urged on me also some dainty dishes, which had 
always been favorites with me in Mexican cookery, 
but my appetite was gone. Throwing myself back 
on the cowskin, I asked Dona Anita how long En 
rique had been gone in quest of my horse, and was 
informed that he left before dawn, not even waiting 
for his customary cup of coffee. With the kindness 
of a sister, the girl wife urged me to take their bed ; 
but I assured her that comfort was the least of my 
concerns, complete effacement being my consuming 
thought. 

Dona Anita withdrew, and as I lay pondering 
over the several possible routes of escape, I heard 
a commotion in the ranch. I was in the act of rising 
when Dona Anita burst into the jacal to tell me 
that Don Lance had been sighted returning. I was 



AFTERMATH 147 

on my feet in an instant, heard the long-drawn 
notes of the horn calling in the hounds, and, peering 
through the largest crack, saw the cavalcade. As 
they approached, driving their loose mounts in front 
of them, I felt that my ill luck still hung over 
me ; for among the unsaddled horses were the two 
which I had turned free but a few hours before. 
The hunters had met the gaunted animals between 
the ranch and the river, and were bringing them in 
to return them to their own remuda. But at the 
same time the horses were evidence that I was in 
the ranch. From the position of Uncle Lance, in 
advance, I could see that he was riding direct to 
the house, and my absence there would surely cause 
surprise. At best it was but a question of time 
until I was discovered. 

In the face of this new development, I gave up. 
There was no escaping fate. Enrique might not 
return for two hours yet, and if he came, driving 
in my horse, it would only prove my presence. I 
begged Dona Anita to throw open the door and 
conceal nothing. But she was still ready to aid in 
my concealment until night, offering to deny my 
presence. But how could I conceal myself in a 
single room, and what was so simple a device to 
a worldly man of sixty years' experience ? To me 
the case looked hopeless. Even before we had con 
cluded our discussion, I saw Uncle Lance and the 
boys coming towards the Mexican quarters, fol 
lowed by Miss Jean and the household contingent 



148 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

The fact that the door of Enrique's jacal was closed, 
made it a shining mark for investigation. Opening 
the inner door, I started to meet the visitors ; but 
Dona Anita planted herself at the outer entrance 
of the stoop, met the visitors, and within my hear 
ing and without being asked stoutly denied my 
presence. " Hush up, you little liar," said a voice, 
and I heard a step and clanking spurs which I re 
cognized. I had sat down on the edge of the bed, 
and was rolling a cigarette as the crowd filed into 
the jacal. A fortunate flush of anger came over me 
which served to steady my voice ; but I met their 
staring, after all, much as if I had been a culprit 
and they a vigilance committee. 

" Well, young fellow, explain your presence 
here," demanded Uncle Lance. Had it not been 
for the presence of Miss Jean, I had on my tongue's 
end a reply, relative to the eleventh commandment, 
emphasized with sulphurous adjectives. But out of 
deference to the mistress of the ranch, I controlled 
my anger, and, taking out of my pocket a flint, a 
steel, and a bit of yesca, struck fire and leisurely 
lighted my cigarette. Throwing myself back on 
the bed, as my employer repeated his demand, I re 
plied, " Ask Anita." The girl understood, and, no 
thing abashed, told the story in her native tongue, 
continually referring to me as pobre Tomas. When 
her disconnected narrative was concluded, Uncle 
Lance turned on me, saying : 

" And this is the result of all our plans. You 



AFTERMATH 149 

went into Oakville, did you ? Tom, you have n't 
got as much sense as a candy frog. Walked right 
into a trap with your head up and sassy. That 's 
right don't you listen to any one. Did n't I tell 
you that stage people would stick by each other 
like thieves ? And you forgot all my warnings and 
deliberately " 

" Hold on," I interrupted. " You must recol 
lect that the horses had had a fifty-mile forced ride, 
were jaded, and on the point of collapse. With the 
down stage refusing to carry us, and the girl on the 
point of hysteria, where else could I go ? " 

" Go to jail if necessary. Go anywhere but the 
place you went. The horses were jaded on a fifty- 
mile ride, were they ? Either one of them was good 
for a hundred without unsaddling, and you know 
it. Have n't I told you that this ranch would raise 
horses when we were all dead and gone ? Suppose 
you had killed a couple of horses? What would 
that have been, compared to your sneaking into 
the ranch this way, like a whipped cur with your 
tail between your legs ? Now, the countryside will 
laugh at us both." 

" The country may laugh," I answered, " but I '11 
not be here to hear it. Enrique has gone after my 
horse, and as soon as he gets in I 'm leaving you 
for good." 

" You '11 do nothing of the kind. You think 
you 're all shot to pieces, don't you ? Well, you '11 
stay right here until all your wounds heal. I 've 



150 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

taken all these degrees myself, and have lived to 
laugh at them afterward. And I have had lessons 
that I hope you '11 never have to learn. When I 
found out that my third wife had known a gambler 
before she married me, I found out what the Bible 
means by rottenness of the bones with which it says 
an evil woman uncrowns her husband. I '11 tell you 
about it some day. But you 've not been scarred in 
this little side-play. You 're not even powder burnt. 
Why, in less than a month you '11 be just as happy 
again as if you had good sense." 

Miss Jean now interrupted. " Clear right out of 
here," she said to her brother and the rest. " Yes, 
the whole pack of you. I want to talk with Tom 
alone. Yes, you too you 've said too much al 
ready. Run along out." 

As they filed out, I noticed Uncle Lance pick up 
my saddle and throw it across his shoulder, while 
Theodore gathered up the rancid blankets and my 
fancy bridle, taking everything with them to the 
house. Waiting until she saw that her orders were 
obeyed, Miss Jean came over and sat down beside 
me on the bed. Anita stood like a fawn near the 
door, likewise fearing banishment, but on a sign 
from her mistress she spread a goatskin on the 
floor and sat down at our feet. Between two lan 
guages and two women, I was as helpless as an 
ironed prisoner. Not that Anita had any influence 
over me, but the mistress of the ranch had. In her 
hands I was as helpless as a baby. I had come to 



AFTERMATH 151 

the ranch a stranger only a little over a year be 
fore, but had I been born there her interest could 
have been no stronger. Jean Lovelace relinquished 
no one, any more than a mother would one of her 
boys. I wanted to escape, to get away from obser 
vation ; I even plead for a month's leave of ab 
sence. But my reasons were of no avail, and after 
arguing pro and con for over an hour, I went with 
her to the house. If the Almighty ever made a 
good woman and placed her among men for their 
betterment, then the presence of Jean Lovelace at 
Las Palomas savored of divine appointment. 

On reaching the yard, we rested a long time on 
a settee under a group of china trees. The boys 
had dispersed, and after quite a friendly chat to 
gether, we saw Uncle Lance sauntering out of the 
house, smiling as he approached. " Tom 's going to 
stay," said Miss Jean to her brother, as the latter 
seated himself beside us ; " but this abuse and blame 
you 're heaping on him must stop. He did what 
he thought was best under the circumstances, and 
you don't know what they were. He has given me 
his promise to stay, and I have given him mine 
that talk about this matter will be dropped. Now 
that your anger has cooled, and I have you both 
together, I want your word." 

" Tom," said my employer, throwing his long 
bony arm around me, " I was disappointed, terri 
bly put out, and I showed it in freeing my mind. 
But I feel better now towards you, at least. I 



152 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

understand just bow you felt when your plans were 
thwarted by an unforeseen incident. If I don't 
know everything, then, since the milk is spilt, I 'm 
not asking for further particulars. If you did what 
you thought was best under the circumstances, why, 
that 's all we ever ask of any one at Las Palomas. 
A mistake is nothing ; my whole life is a series of 
errors. I 've been trying, and expect to keep right 
on trying, to give you youngsters the benefit of my 
years ; but if you insist on learning it for your 
selves, well enough. When I was your age, I took 
no one's advice ; but look how I 've paid the fid 
dler. Possibly it was ordained otherwise, but it 
looks to me like a shame that I can't give you boys 
the benefit of my dearly bought experience. But 
whether you take my advice or not, we 're going to 
be just as good friends as ever. I need young fel 
lows like you on this ranch. I 've sent Dan out 
after Deweese, and to-morrow we 're going to com 
mence gathering beeves. A few weeks' good hard 
work will do you worlds of good. In less than a 
year, you '11 look back at this as a splendid lesson. 
Shucks ! boy, a man is a narrow, calloused creature 
until he has been shook up a few times by love 
affairs. They develop him into the man he was in 
tended to be. Come on into the house, Tom, and 
Jean will make us a couple of mint juleps." 

What a blessed panacea for mental trouble is 
work! We were in the saddle by daybreak the 



AFTERMATH 153 

next morning, rounding up remudas. Every avail 
able vaquero at the outlying ranchitas had been 
summoned. Dividing the outfit and horses, Uncle 
Lance took twelve men and struck west for the 
Ganso. With an equal number of men, Deweese 
pushed north for the Frio, which he was to work 
down below Shepherd's, thence back along the home 
river. From the ranch books, we knew there were 
fully two thousand beeves over five years old in our 
brand. These cattle had never known an hour's 
restraint since the day they were branded, and cau 
tion and cool judgment would be required in han 
dling them. Since the contract only required twelve 
hundred, we expected to make an extra clean gath 
ering, using the oldest and naturally the largest 
beeves. 

During the week spent in gathering, I got the 
full benefit of every possible hour in the saddle. 
We reached the Ganso about an hour before sun 
down. The weatlier had settled ; water was plenti 
ful, and every one realized that the work in hand 
would require wider riding than under dry condi 
tions. By the time we had caught up fresh horses, 
the sun had gone down. " Boys," said Uncle Lance, 
" we want to make a big rodeo on the head of this 
creek in the morning. Tom, you take two vaqueros 
and lay off to the southwest about ten miles, and 
make a dry camp to-night. Glenn may have the 
same help to the southeast ; and every rascal of you 
be in your saddles by daybreak. There are a lot of 



154 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

big ladino beeves in those brushy hills to the south 
and west. Be sure and be in your saddles early 
enough to catch all wild cattle out on the prairies. 
If you want to, you can take a lunch in your pocket 
for breakfast. No ; you need no blankets you '11 
get up earlier if you sleep cold." 

Taking Jose Pena and Pasquale Arispe with me, 
I struck off on our course in the gathering twi 
light. The first twitter of a bird in the morning 
brought me to my feet ; I roused the others, and 
we saddled and were riding with the first sign of 
dawn in the east. Taking the outside circle myself, 
I gave every bunch of cattle met on my course a 
good start for the centre of the round-up. Pasquale 
and Jose followed several miles to my rear on inner 
circles, drifting on the cattle which I had started 
inward. As the sun arose, dispelling the morning 
mists, I could see other cattle coming down in long 
strings out of the hills to the eastward. Within an 
hour after starting, Gallup and I met. Our half 
circle to the southward was perfect, and each turn 
ing back, we rode our appointed divisions until the 
vaqueros from the wagon were sighted, throwing in 
cattle and closing up the northern portion of the 
circle. Before the sun was two hours high, the first 
rodeo of the day was together, numbering about 
three thousand mixed cattle. In the few hours since 
dawn, we had concentrated all animals in a territory 
at least fifteen miles in diameter. 

Uncle Lance was in his element. Detailing two 



AFTERMATH 155 

vaqueros to hold the beef cut within reach and a 
half dozen to keep the main herd compact, he or 
dered the remainder of us to enter and begin the 
selecting of beeves. There were a number of big 
wild steers in the round-up, but we left those until 
the cut numbered over two hundred. When every 
hoof over five years of age was separated, we had 
a nucleus for our beef herd numbering about two 
hundred and forty steers. They were in fine condi 
tion for grass cattle, and, turning the main herd 
free, we started our cut for the wagon, being com 
pelled to ride wide of them as we drifted down 
stream towards camp, as there were a number of old 
beeves which showed impatience at the restraint. 
But by letting them scatter well, by the time they 
reached the wagon it required but two vaqueros to 
hold them. 

The afternoon was but a repetition of the morn 
ing. Everything on the south side of the Nueces 
between the river and the wagon was thrown to 
gether on the second round-up of the day, which 
yielded less than two hundred cattle for our beef 
herd. But when we went into camp, dividing into 
squads for night-herding, the day's work was satis 
factory to the ranchero. Dan Happersett was given 
five vaqueros and stood the first watch or until one 
A. M. Glenn Gallup and myself took the remainder 
of the men and stood guard until morning. When 
Happersett called our guard an hour after mid 
night, he said to Gallup and me as we were pulling 



156 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

on our boots : " About a dozen big steers have n't 
laid down. There 's only one of them that has given 
any trouble. He 's a pinto that we cut in the first 
round-up in the morning. He has made two breaks 
already to get away, and if you don't watch him 
close, he '11 surely give you the slip." 

While riding to the relief, Glenn and I posted our 
vaqueros to be on the lookout for the pinto beef. 
The cattle were intentionally bedded loose ; but even 
in the starlight and waning moon, every man easily 
spotted the ladino beef, uneasily stalking back and 
forth like a caged tiger across the bed ground. A 
half hour before dawn, he made a final effort to 
escape, charging out between Gallup and the va- 
quero following up on the same side. From the 
other side of the bed ground, I heard the commo 
tion, but dare not leave the herd to assist. There 
was a mile of open country surrounding our camp, 
and if two men could not turn the beef on that 
space, it was useless for others to offer assistance. 
In the stillness of the morning hour, we could hear 
the running and see the flashes from six-shooters, 
marking the course of the outlaw. After making a 
half circle, we heard them coming direct for the 
herd. For fear of a stampede, we raised a great 
commotion around the sleeping cattle ; but in spite 
of our precaution, as the ladino beef reentered the 
herd, over half the beeves jumped to their feet and 
began milling. But we held them until dawn, and 
after scattering them over several hundred acres, 



AFTERMATH 157 

left them grazing contentedly, when, leaving two 
vaqueros with the feeding herd, we went back to 
the wagon. The camp had been astir some time, 
and when Glenn reported the incident of our watch, 
Uncle Lance said : " I thought I heard some shoot 
ing while I was cat-napping at daylight. Well, we 
can use a little fresh beef in this very camp. We '11 
kill him at noon. The wagon will move down near 
the river this morning, so we can make three rodeos 
from it without moving camp, and to-night we'll 
have a side of Pinto's ribs barbecued. My mouth 
is watering this very minute for a rib roast." 

That morning after a big rodeo on the Nueces, 
well above the Ganso, we returned to camp. Throw 
ing into our herd the cut of less than a hundred 
secured on the morning round-up, Uncle Lance, 
who had preceded us, rode out from the wagon with 
a carbine. Allowing the beeves to scatter, the old 
ranchero met and rode zigzagging through them 
until he came face to face with the pinto ladino. 
On noticing the intruding horseman, the outlaw 
threw up his head. There was a carbine report and 
the big fellow went down in his tracks. By the 
time the herd had grazed away, Tiburcio, who was 
cooking with our wagon, brought out all the knives, 
and the beef was bled, dressed, and quartered. 

"You can afford to be extravagant with this 
beef," said Uncle Lance to the old cook, when the 
quarters had been carried in to the wagon. " I Ve 
been ranching on this river nearly forty years, and 



158 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

I Ve always made it a rule, where cattle cannot be 
safely handled, to beef them then and there. I 've 
sat up many a night barbecuing the ribs of a ladino. 
If you have plenty of salt, Tiburcio, you can make 
a brine and jerk those hind quarters. It will make 
fine chewing for the boys on night herd when once 
we start for the coast." 

Following down the home river, we made ten 
other rodeos before we met Deweese. We had some 
thing over a thousand beeves while he had less than 
eight hundred. Throwing the two cuts together, we 
made a count, and cut back all the younger and 
smaller cattle until the herd was reduced to the re 
quired number. Before my advent at Las Palomas, 
about the. only outlet for beef cattle had been the 
canneries at Rockport and Fulton. But these cattle 
were for shipment by boat to New Orleans and 
other coast cities. The route to the coast was well 
known to my employer, and detailing twelve men 
for the herd, a horse wrangler and cook extra, we 
started for it, barely touching at the ranch on our 
course. It was a nice ten days' trip. After the first 
night, we used three guards of four men each. 
Grazing contentedly, the cattle quieted down until 
on our arrival half our numbers could have handled 
them. The herd was counted and received on the 
outlying prairies, and as no steamer was due for a 
few days, another outfit took charge of them. 

Uncle Lance was never much of a man for towns, 
and soon after settlement the next morning we 



AFTERMATH 159 

were ready to start home. But the payment, amount 
ing to thirty thousand dollars, presented a problem, 
as the bulk of it came to us in silver. There was 
scarcely a merchant in the place who would assume 
the responsibility of receiving it even on deposit, 
and in the absence of a bank, there was no alter 
native but to take it home. The agent for the 
steamship company solicited the money for trans 
portation to New Orleans, mentioning the danger 
of robbery, and referring to the recent attempt of 
bandits to hold up the San Antonio and Corpus 
Christi stage. I had good cause to remember that 
incident, and was wondering what my employer 
would do under the circumstances, when he turned 
from the agent, saying : 

" Well, we '11 take it home just the same. I have 
no use for money in New Orleans. Nor do I care 
if every bandit in Texas knows we 've got the money 
in the wagon. I want to buy a few new guns, any 
how. If robbers tackle us, we '11 promise them a 
warm reception and I never knew a thief who 
did n't think more of his own carcass than of an 
other man's money." 

The silver was loaded into the wagon in sacks, and 
we started on our return. It was rather a risky 
trip, but we never concealed the fact that we had 
every dollar of the money in the wagon. It would 
have been dangerous to make an attempt on us, for 
we were all well armed. We reached the ranch in 
safety, rested a day, and then took the ambulance 



160 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

and went on to San Antonio. Three of us, besides 
Tiburcio, accompanied our employer, each taking 
a saddle horse, and stopping by night at ranches 
where we were known. On the third day we reached 
the city in good time to bank the money, much to 
my relief. 

As there was no work pressing at home, we spent 
a week in the city, thoroughly enjoying ourselves. 
Uncle Lance was negotiating for the purchase of 
a large Spanish land grant, which adjoined our 
range on the west, taking in the Ganso and several 
miles' frontage on both sides of the home river. 
This required his attention for a few days, during 
which time Deweese met two men on the lookout 
for stock cattle with which to start a new ranch 
on the Devil's River in Valverde County. % They 
were in the market for three thousand cows, to be 
delivered that fall or the following spring. Our se- 
gundo promptly invited them to meet his employer 
that evening at our hotel. As the ranges in eastern 
Texas became of value for agriculture, the cowman 
moved westward, disposing of his cattle or taking 
them with him. It was men of this class whom 
Deweese had met during the day, and on filling 
their appointment in the evening, our employer and 
the buyers soon came to an agreement. Eeferences 
were exchanged, and the next afternoon a contract 
was entered into whereby we were to deliver, May 
first, at Las Palomas ranch, three thousand cows 
between the ages of two and four years. 



AFTERMATH 161 

There was some delay in perfecting the title to 
the land grant. "We '11 start home in the morning, 
boys," said Uncle Lance, the evening after the con 
tract was drawn. " You simply can't hurry a land 
deal. I '11 get that tract in time, but there 's over 
a hundred heirs now of the original Don. I 'd just 
like to know what the grandee did for his king 
to get that grant. Tickled his royal nibs, I reckon, 
with some cock and bull story, and here I have to 
give up nearly forty thousand dollars of good honest 
money. Twenty years ago I was offered this same 
grant for ten cents an acre, and now I 'm paying 
four bits. But I did n't have the money then, and 
I 'm not sure I 'd have bought it if I had. But I 
need it now, and I need it bad, and that 's why I 'm 
letting them hold me up for such a figure." 

Stopping at the " last chance " road house on the 
outskirts of the city the next morning, for a final 
drink as we were leaving, Uncle Lance said to us 
over the cattle contract : " There 's money in it 
good money, too. But we 're not going to fill it out 
of our home brand. Not in this year of our Lord. 
I think too much of my cows to part with a single 
animal. Boys, cows made Las Palomas what she is, 
and as long as they win for me, I intend to swear 
by them through thick and thin, in good and bad 
repute, fair weather or foul. So, June, just as soon 
as the fall branding is over, you can take Tom 
with you for an interpreter and start for Mexico 
to contract these cows. Las Palomas is going to 



162 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

branch out and spread herself. As a ranchman, I 
can bring the cows across for breeding purposes 
free of duty, and I know of no good reason why I 
can't change my mind and sell them. Dan, take 
Tiburcio out a cigar." 



CHAPTER XI 
A TURKEY BAKE 

DEWEESE and I came back from Mexico during 
Christmas week. On reaching Las Palomas, we 
found Frank Nancrede and Add Tully, the latter 
being also a trail foreman, at the ranch. They were 
wintering in San Antonio, and were spending a few 
weeks at our ranch, incidentally on the lookout for 
several hundred saddle horses for trail purposes 
the coming spring. We had no horses for sale, but 
nevertheless Uncle Lance had prevailed on them to 
make Las Palomas headquarters during their stay 
in the country. 

The first night at the ranch, Miss Jean and I 
talked until nearly midnight. There had been so 
many happenings during my absence that it re 
quired a whole evening to tell them all. From the 
naming of Anita's baby to the rivalry between 
John and Theodore for the favor of Frances Vaux, 
all the latest social news of the countryside was dis 
cussed. Miss Jean had attended the dance at Shep 
herd's during the fall, and had heard it whispered 
that Oxenf ord and Esther were anything but happy. 
The latest word from the Vaux ranch said that 
the couple had separated ; at least there was some 



164 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

trouble, for when Oxenford had attempted to force 
her to return to Oakville, and had made some dis 
paraging remarks, Tony Hunter had crimped a six- 
shooter over his head. I pretended not to be inter 
ested in this, but secretly had I learned that Hunter 
had killed Oxenford, I should have had no very 
serious regrets. 

Uncle Lance had promised Tully and Nancrede 
a turkey hunt during the holidays, so on our un 
expected return it was decided to have it at once. 
There had been a heavy mast that year, and in the 
encinal ridges to the east wild turkeys were reported 
plentiful. Accordingly we set out the next after 
noon for a camp hunt in some oak cross timbers 
which grew on tjie eastern border of our ranch lands. 
Taking two pack mules and Tiburcio as cook, a 
party of eight of us rode away, expecting to remain 
overnight. Uncle Lance knew of a fine camping 
spot about ten miles from the ranch. When within 
a few miles of the place, Tiburcio was sent on ahead 
with the pack mules to make camp. " Boys, we '11 
divide up here," said Uncle Lance, " and take a 
little scout through these cross timbers and try and 
locate some roosts. The camp will be in those nar 
rows ahead yonder where that burnt timber is to 
your right. Keep an eye open for javalina signs ; 
they used to be plentiful through here when there 
was good mast. Now, scatter out in pairs, and if you 
can knock down a gobbler or two we '11 have a tur 
key bake to-night." 



A TURKEY BAKE 165 

Dan Happersett knew the camping spot, so I 
went with him, and together we took a big circle 
through the encinal, keeping alert for game signs. 
Before we had gone far, evidence became plenti 
ful, not only of turkeys, but of peccary and deer. 
Where the turkeys had recently been scratching, 
many times we dismounted and led our horses 
but either the turkeys were too wary for us, or else 
we had been deceived as to the freshness of the 
sign. Several successive shots on our right caused 
us to hurry out of the timber in the direction of the 
reports. Halting in the edge of the timber, we 
watched the strip of prairie between us and the next 
cover to the south. Soon a flock of fully a hundred 
wild turkeys came running out of the encinal on 
the opposite side and started across to our ridge. 
Keeping under cover, we rode to intercept them, 
never losing sight of the covey. They were, running 
fast ; but when they were nearly halfway across the 
opening, there was another shot and they took flight, 
sailing into cover ahead of us, well out of range. 
But one gobbler was so fat that he was unable 
to fly over a hundred yards and was still in the 
open. We rode to cut him off. On sighting us, he 
attempted to rise ; but his pounds were against him, 
and when we crossed his course he was so winded 
that our horses ran all around him. After we had 
both shot a few times, missing him, he squatted in 
some tall grass and stuck his head under a tuft. 
Dismounting, Dan sprang on to him like a fox, and 



166 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

he was ours. We wrung his neck, and agreed to 
report that we had shot him through the head, thus 
concealing, in the absence of bullet wounds, our poor 
marksmanship. 

When we reached the camp shortly before dark, 
we found the others had already arrived, ours mak 
ing the sixth turkey in the evening's bag. We had 
drawn ours on killing it, as had the others, and 
after supper Uncle Lance superintended the stuff 
ing of the two largest birds. While this was in 
progress, others made a stiff mortar, and we coated 
each turkey with about three inches of the waxy 
clay, feathers and all. Opening our camp-fire, we 
placed the turkeys together, covered them with 
ashes and built a heaping fire over and around 
them. A number of haunts had been located by the 
others, but as we expected to make an early hunt in 
the morning, we decided not to visit any of the roosts 
that night. After Uncle Lance had regaled us with 
hunting stories of an early day, the discussion in 
nocently turned to my recent elopement. By this 
time the scars had healed fairly well, and I took 
the chaffing in all good humor. Tully told a per 
sonal experience, which, if it was the truth, argued 
that in time I might become as indifferent to my 
recent mishap as any one could wish. 

" My prospects of marrying a few years ago," 
said Tully, lying full stretch before the fire, " were 
a whole lot better than yours, Quirk. But my am 
bition those days was to boss a herd up the trail and 



A TURKEY BAKE 167 

get top-notch wages. She was a Texas girl, just 
like yours, bred up in Van Zandt County. She could 
ride a horse like an Indian. Bad horses seemed 
afraid of her. Why, I saw her once when she was 
about sixteen, take a black stallion out of his stable, 
lead him out with but a rope about his neck, 
throw a half hitch about his nose, and mount him 
as though he was her pet. Bareback and without 
a bridle she rode him ten miles for a doctor. There 
was n't a mile of the distance either but he felt the 
quirt burning in his flank and knew he was being 
ridden by a master. Her father scolded her at the 
time, and boasted about it later. 

" She had dozens of admirers, and the first im 
pression I ever made on her was when she was about 
twenty. There was a big tournament being given, 
and all the young bloods in many counties came in 
to contest for the prizes. I was a double winner 
in the games and contests won a roping prize 
and was the only lad that came inside the time limit 
as a lancer, though several beat me on rings. Of 
course the tournament ended with a ball. Having 
won the lance prize, it was my privilege of crowning 
the ' queen ' of the ball. Of course I was n't going 
to throw away such a chance, for there was no end 
of rivalry amongst the girls over it. The crown was 
made of flowers, or if there were none in season, of 
live-oak leaves. Well, at the ball after the tour 
nament I crowned Miss Kate with a crown of oak 
leaves. After that I felt bold enough to crowd mat- 



168 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

ters, and things came my way. We were to be mar 
ried during Easter week, but her mother up and died, 
so we put it off awhile for the sake of appearances. 

" The next spring I got a chance to boss a herd 
up the trail for Jesse Ellison. It was the chance 
of my life and I could n't think of refusing. The 
girl put up quite a mouth about it, and I explained 
to her that a hundred a month was n't offered to 
every man. She finally gave in, but still you could 
see she was n't pleased. Girls that way don't sabe 
cattle matters a little bit. She promised to write 
me at several points which I told her the herd would 
pass. When I bade her good-by, tears stood in her 
eyes, though she tried to hide them. I 'd have 
gambled my life on her that morning. 

" Well, we had a nice trip, good outfit and strong 
cattle. Uncle Jess mounted us ten horses to the 
man, every one fourteen hands or better, for we 
were contracted for delivery in Nebraska. It was a 
five months' drive with scarcely an incident on the 
way. Just a run or two and a dry drive or so. I 
had lots of time to think about Kate. When we 
reached the Chisholm crossing on Red River, I felt 
certain that I would find a letter, but I did n't. I 
wrote her from there, but when we reached Cald- 
well, nary a letter either. The same luck at Abilene. 
Try as I might, I could n't make it out. Something 
was wrong, but what it was, was anybody's guess. 

" At this last place we got our orders to deliver 
the cattle at the junction of the middle and lower 



A TURKEY BAKE 169 

Loup. It was a terror of a long drive, but that 
wasn't a circumstance compared to not hearing 
from Kate. I kept all this to myself, mind you. 
When our herd reached its destination, which it did 
on time, as hard luck would have it there was a 
hitch in the payment. The herd was turned loose 
and all the outfit but myself sent home. I stayed 
there two months longer at a little place called 
Broken Bow. I held the bill of sale for the herd, 
and would turn it over, transferring the cattle from 
one owner to another, on the word from my em 
ployer. At last I received a letter from Uncle Jesse 
saying that the payment in full had been made, so 
I surrendered the final document and came home. 
Those trains seemed to run awful slow. But I got 
home all too soon, for she had then been married 
three months. 

" You see an agent for eight-day clocks came 
along, and being a stranger took her eye. He was 
one of those nice, dapper fellows, wore a red necktie, 
and could talk all day to a woman. He worked by 
the rule of three, tickle, talk, and flatter, with a 
few cutes thrown in for a pelon ; that gets nearly 
any of them. They live in town now. He 's a wind 
mill agent. I never went near them." 

Meanwhile the fire kept pace with the talk, 
thanks to Uncle Lance's watchful eye. " That 's 
right, Tiburcio, carry up plenty of good lena," he 
kept saying. " Bring in all the black-jack oak that 
you can find ; it makes fine coals. These are both 



170 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

big gobblers, and to bake them until they fall to 
pieces like a watermelon will require a steady fire 
till morning. Pile up a lot of wood, and if I wake 
up during the night, trust to me to look after the 
fire. I ' ve baked so many turkeys this way that I 'm 
an expert at the business." 

" A girl's argument," remarked Dan Happersett 
in a lull of talk, " don't have to be very weighty 
to fit any case. Anything she does is justifiable. 
That 's one reason why I always kept shy of women. 
I admit that I 've toyed around with some of them ; 
have tossed my tug on one or two just to see if they 
would run on the rope. But now generally I keep 
a wire fence between them and myself if they show 
any symptoms of being on the marry. Maybe so I 
was in earnest once, back on the Trinity. But it 
seems that every time that I made a pass, my loop 
would foul or fail to open or there was brush in the 
way." 

" Just because you have a few gray hairs in your 
head you think you're awful foxy, don't you?" 
said Uncle Lance to Dan. " I 've seen lots of inde 
pendent fellows like you. If I had a little widow 
who knew her cards, and just let her kitten up to 
you and act coltish, inside a week you would be fol 
lowing her around like a pet lamb." 

" I knew a fellow," said Nancrede, lighting his 
pipe with a firebrand, " that when the clerk asked 
him, when he went for a license to marry, if he 
would swear that the young lady his intended 






A TURKEY BAKE 171 

was over twenty-one, said : ' Yes, by G , I '11 swear 
that she 's over thirty-one.' " 

At the next pause in the yarning, I inquired why 
a wild turkey always deceived itself by hiding its 
head and leaving the body exposed. " That it 's a 
fact, we all know," volunteered Uncle Lance, " but 
the why and wherefore is too deep for me. I take 
it that it 's due to running to neck too much in 
their construction. Now an ostrich is the same way, 
all neck with not a lick of sense. And the same 
applies to the human family. You take one of these 
long-necked cowmen and what does he know outside 
of cattle. Nine times out of ten, I can tell a sensible 
girl by merely looking at her neck. Now snicker, 
you dratted young fools, just as if I was n't talking 
horse sense to you. Some of you boys have n't got 
much more sabe than a fat old gobbler." 

"When I first came to this State," said June 
Deweese, who had been quietly and attentively lis 
tening to the stories, " I stopped over on the Neches 
River near a place called Shot-a-buck Crossing. I 
had an uncle living there with whom I made my 
home the first few years that I lived in Texas. 
There are more or less cattle there, but it is princi 
pally a cotton country. There was an old cuss living 
over there on that river who was land poor, but had 
a powerful purty girl. Her old man owned any 
number of plantations on the river generally had 
lots of nigger renters to look after. Miss Sallie, the 
daughter, was the belle of the neighborhood. She 



172 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

had all the graces with a fair mixture of the weak 
nesses of her sex. The trouble was, there was no 
young man in the whole country fit to hold her horse. 
At least she and her folks entertained that idea. 
There was a storekeeper and a young doctor at the 
county seat, who it seems took turns calling on her. 
It looked like it was going to be a close race. Out 
side of these two there was n't a one of us who could 
touch her with a twenty-four-foot fish-pole. We 
simply took the side of the road when she passed by. 

" About this time there drifted in from out west 
near Fort McKavett, a young fellow named Curly 
Thorn. He had relatives living in that neighbor 
hood. Out at the fort he was a common foreman on 
a ranch. Talk about your graceful riders, he sat a 
horse in a manner that left nothing to be desired. 
Well, Curly made himself very agreeable with all 
the girls on the range, but played no special favor, 
ites. He stayed in the country, visiting among 
cousins, until camp meeting began over at the Ala 
bama Camp Ground. During this meeting Curly 
proved himself quite a gallant by carrying first 
one young lady and the next evening some other 
to camp meeting. During these two weeks of the 
meeting, some one introduced him to Miss Sallie. 
Now, remember, he did n't play her for a favorite 
no more than any other. That 's what miffed her. 
She thought he ought to. 

" One Sunday afternoon she intimated to him, 
like a girl sometimes will, that she was going home, 



A TURKEY BAKE 173 

and was sorry that she had no companion for the 
ride. This was sufficient for the gallant Curly to 
offer himself to her as an escort. She simply thought 
she was stealing a beau from some other girl, and 
he never dreamt he was dallying with Neches River 
royalty. But the only inequality in that couple as 
they rode away from the ground was an errone 
ous idea in her and her folks' minds. And that dif 
ference was in the fact that her old dad had more 
land than he could pay taxes on. Well, Curly not 
only saw her home, but stayed for tea that 's the 
name the girls have for supper over on the Neches 
and that night carried her back to the evening 
service. From that day till the close of the session 
he was devotedly hers. A month afterward when 
he left, it was the talk of the country that they were 
to be married during the coming holidays. 

" But then there were the young doctor and the 
storekeeper still in the game. Curly was off the 
scene temporarily, but the other two were riding 
their best horses to a shadow. Miss Sallie's folks 
were pulling like bay steers for the merchant, who 
had some money, while the young doctor had no 
thing but empty pill bags and a saddle horse or 
two. The doctor was the better looking, and, be 
fore meeting Curly Thorn, Miss Sallie had favored 
him. Knowing ones said they were engaged. But 
near the close of the race there was sufficient home 
influence used for the storekeeper to take the lead 
and hold it until the show down came. Her folks 



174 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

announced the wedding, and the merchant received 
the best wishes of his friends, while the young doc 
tor took a trip for his health. Well, it developed 
afterwards that she was engaged to both the store 
keeper and the doctor at the same time. But that 's 
nothing. My experience tells me that a girl don't 
need broad shoulders to carry three or four engage 
ments at the same time. 

" Well, within a week of the wedding, who should 
drift in to spend Christmas but Curly Thorn. His 
cousins, of course, lost no time in giving him the 
lay of the land. But Curly acted indifferent, and 
never even offered to call on Miss Sallie. Us fel 
lows joked him about his girl going to marry an 
other fellow, and he did n't seem a little bit put out. 
In fact, he seemed to enjoy the sudden turn as a 
good joke on himself. But one morning, two days 
before the wedding was to take place, Miss Sallie 
was missing from her home, as was likewise Curly 
Thorn from the neighborhood. Yes, Thorn had 
eloped with her and they were married the next 
morning in Nacogdoches. And the funny thing 
about it was, Curly never met her after his return 
until the night they eloped. But he had a girl 
cousin who had a finger in the pie. She and Miss 
Sallie were as thick as three in a bed, and Curly 
didn't have anything to do but play the hand that 
was dealt him. 

" Before I came to Las Palornas, I was over 
round Fort McKavett and met Curly. We knew 



A TURKEY BAKE 175 

each other, and he took me home and had me stay 
overnight with him. They had been married then 
four years. She had a baby on each knee and an 
other in her arms. There was so much reality in 
life that she had no time to become a dreamer. 
Matrimony in that case was a good leveler of im 
aginary rank. I always admired Curly for the in 
different hand he played all through the various 
stages of the courtship. He never knew there was 
such a thing as difference. He simply coppered the 
play to win, and the cards came his way." 

" Bully for Curly ! " said Uncle Lance, arising 
and fixing the fire, as the rest of us unrolled our 
blankets. " If some of my rascals could make a ten 
strike like that it would break a streak of bad luck 
which has overshadowed Las Palomas for over thirty 
years. Great Scott ! but those gobblers smell 
good. I can hear them blubbering and sizzling in 
their shells. It will surely take an axe to crack that 
clay in the morning. But get under your blankets, 
lads, for I '11 call you for a turkey breakfast about 
dawn." 



CHAPTER XII 

SUMMER OF '77 

DURING our trip into Mexico the fall before, De- 
weese contracted for three thousand cows at two 
haciendas on the Rio San Juan. Early in the spring 
June and I returned to receive the cattle. The 
ranch outfit under Uncle Lance was to follow some 
three weeks later and camp on the American side 
at Roma, Texas. We made arrangements as we 
crossed into Mexico with a mercantile house in Mier 
to act as our bankers, depositing our own drafts and 
taking letters of credit to the interior. In buying 
the cows we had designated Mier, which was just op 
posite Roma, as the place for settlement and Uncle 
Lance on his arrival brought drafts to cover our 
purchases, depositing them with the same merchant. 
On receiving, we used a tally mark which served 
as a road brand, thus preventing a second branding, 
and throughout much to the disgust of the Mex 
ican vaqueros Deweese enforced every humane 
idea which Nancrede had practiced the spring before 
in accepting the trail herd at Las Palomas. There 
were endless quantities of stock cattle to select from 
on the two haciendas, and when ready to start, un 
der the specifications, a finer lot of cows would have 



SUMMER OF '77 177 

been hard to find. The worst drawback was that 
they were constantly dropping calves on the road, 
and before we reached the river we had a calf -wagon 
in regular use. On arriving at the Rio Grande, 
the then stage of water was fortunately low and we 
crossed the herd without a halt, the import papers 
having been attended to in advance. 

Uncle Lance believed in plenty of help, and had 
brought down from Las Palomas an ample outfit of 
men and horses. He had also anticipated the drop 
ping of calves and had rigged up a carrier, the 
box of which was open framework. Thus until a 
calf was strong enough to follow, the mother, as 
she trailed along beside the wagon, could keep an 
eye on her offspring. We made good drives the first 
two or three days ; but after clearing the first bot 
toms of the Rio Grande and on reaching the table 
lands, we made easy stages of ten to twelve miles a 
day. When near enough to calculate on our arrival 
at Las Palomas, the old ranchero quit us and went 
on into the ranch. Several days later a vaquero met 
the herd about thirty miles south of Santa Maria, 
and brought the information that the Valverde 
outfit was at the ranch, and instructions to veer 
westward and drive down the Ganso on approach 
ing the Nueces. By these orders the delivery on 
the home river would occur at least twenty miles 
west of the ranch headquarters. 

As we were passing to the westward of Santa 
Maria, our employer and one of the buyers rode 



178 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

out from that ranch and met the herd. They had 
decided not to brand until arriving at their desti 
nation on the Devil's River, which would take them 
at least a month longer. While this deviation was 
nothing to us, it was a gain to them. The purchaser 
was delighted with the cattle and our handling of 
them, there being fully a thousand young calves, 
and on reaching their camp on the Ganso, the de 
livery was completed four days in advance of the 
specified time. For fear of losses, we had received 
a few head extra, and, on counting them over, found 
we had not lost a single hoof. The buyers received 
the extra cattle, and the delivery was satisfactorily 
concluded. One of the partners returned with us 
to Las Palomas for the final settlement, while the 
other, taking charge of the herd, turned them up the 
Nueces. The receiving outfit had fourteen men and 
some hundred and odd horses. Aside from their 
commissary, they also had a calf-wagon, drawn 
by two yoke of oxen and driven by a strapping 
big negro. In view of the big calf crop, the part 
ners concluded that an extra conveyance would 
not be amiss, and on Uncle Lance making them a 
reasonable figure on our calf-wagon and the four 
mules drawing it, they never changed a word but 
took the outfit. As it was late in the day when 
the delivery was made, the double outfit remained 
in the same camp that night, and with the best 
wishes, bade each other farewell in the morning. 
Nearly a month had passed since Deweese and I 



SUMMER OF '77 179 

had left Las Palomas for the Kio San Juan, and, re 
turning with the herd, had met our own outfit at the 
Rio Grande. During the interim, before the ranch 
outfit had started, the long-talked-of tournament on 
the Nueces had finally been arranged. The date 
had been set for the fifth of June, and of all the 
home news which the outfit brought down to the 
Rio Grande, none was as welcome as this. Accord 
ing to the programme, the contests were to include 
riding, roping, relay races, and handling the lance. 
Several of us had never witnessed a tournament ; 
but as far as roping and riding were concerned, 
we all considered ourselves past masters of the 
arts. The relay races were simple enough, and Dan 
Happersett volunteered this explanation of a lance 
contest to those of us who were uninitiated : 

" Well," said Dan, while we were riding home 
from the Ganso, " a straight track is laid off about 
two hundred yards long. About every forty yards 
there is a post set up along the line with an arm 
reaching out over the track. From this there is 
suspended an iron ring about two inches in diame 
ter. The contestant is armed with a wooden lance of 
regulation length, and as he rides down this track 
at full speed and within a time limit, he is to impale 
as many of these rings as possible. Each contes 
tant is entitled to three trials and the one impal 
ing the most rings is declared the victor. That's 
about all there is to it, except the award. The fes 
tivities, of course, close with a dance, in which the 



180 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

winner crowns the Queen of the ball. That 's the 
reason the girls always take such an interest in the 
lancing, because the winner has the choosing of his 
Queen. I won it once, over on the Trinity, and chose 
a little cripple girl. Had to do it or leave the coun 
try, for it was looked upon as an engagement to 
marry. Oh, I tell you, if a girl is sweet on a fellow, 
it 's a mighty strong card to play." 

Before starting for the Kio Grande, the old ran- 
chero had worked our horse stock, forming fourteen 
new manadas, so that on our return about the only 
work which could command our attention was the 
breaking of more saddle horses. We had gentled two 
hundred the spring before, and breaking a hundred 
and fifty now, together with the old remudas, would 
give Las Palomas fully five hundred saddle horses. 
The ranch had the geldings, the men had time, and 
there was no good excuse for not gentling more 
horses. So after a few days' rest the oldest and 
heaviest geldings were gathered and we then settled 
down to routine horse work. But not even this ex 
citing employment could keep the coming tourna 
ment from our minds. Within a week after return 
ing to the ranch, we laid off a lancing course, and 
during every spare hour the knights of Las Palo 
mas might be seen galloping over the course, prac 
ticing. I tried using the lance several times, only 
to find that it was not as easy as it looked, and I 
finally gave up the idea of lancing honors, and 
turned my attention to the relay races. 



SUMMER OF '77 181 

Miss Jean had been the only representative of our 
ranch at Shepherd's on San Jacinto Day. But she 
had had her eyes open on that occasion, and on our 
return had a message for nearly every one of us. 
1 was not expecting any, still the mistress of Las 
Palomas had met my old sweetheart and her sister, 
Mrs. Hunter, at the ferry, and the three had talked 
the matter over and mingled their tears in mutual 
sympathy. I made a blustering talk which was to 
cover my real feelings and to show that I had grown 
indifferent toward Esther, but that tactful woman 
had not lived in vain, and read me aright. 

" Tom," said she, " I was a young woman when 
you were a baby. There 's lots of things in which 
you might deceive me, but Esther McLeod is not 
one of them. You loved her once, and you can't 
tell me that in less than a year you have forgotten 
her. I won't say that men forget easier than women, 
but you have never suffered one tenth the heart 
aches over Esther McLeod that she has over you. 
You can afford to be generous with her, Tom. True, 
she allowed an older sister to browbeat and bully 
her into marrying another man, but she was an 
inexperienced girl then. If you were honest, you 
would admit that Esther of her own accord would 
never have married Jack Oxenford. Then why pun 
ish the innocent ? Oh, Tom, if you could only see 
her now ! Sorrow and suffering have developed the 
woman in her, and she is no longer the girl you 
knew and loved." 



182 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

Miss Jean was hewing too close to the line for 
my comfort. Her observations were so near the 
truth that they touched me in a vulnerable spot. 
Yet as I paced the room, I expressed myself em 
phatically as never wishing to meet Esther McLeod 
again. I really felt that way. But I had not reck 
oned on the mistress of Las Palomas, nor consid 
ered that her strong sympathy for my former 
sweetheart had moved her to more than ordinary 
endeavor. 

The month of May passed. Uncle Lance spent 
several weeks at the Booth ranch on the Frio. At 
the home ranch practice for the contests went 
forward with vigor. By the first of June we had 
sifted the candidates down until we had determined 
on our best men for each entry. The old ranchero 
and our segundo, together with Dan Happersett, 
made up a good set of judges on our special fitness 
for the different contests, and we were finally picked 
in this order : Enrique Lopez was to rope ; Pasquale 
Arispe was to ride; to Theodore Quayle fell the 
chance of handling the lance, while I, being young 
and nimble on my feet, was decided on as the rider 
in the ten-mile relay race. 

In this contest I was fortunate in having the pick 
of over three hundred and fifty saddle horses. They 
were the accumulation of years of the best that Las 
Palomas bred, and it was almost bewildering to 
make the final selection. But in this I had the bene 
fit of the home judges, and when the latter differed 



SUMMER OF '77 183 

on the speed of a horse, a trial usually settled the 
point. June Deweese proved to be the best judge of 
the ranch horses, yet Uncle Lance never yielded his 
opinion without a test of speed. When the horses 
were finally decided on, we staked off a half-mile 
circular track on the first bottom of the river, 
and every evening the horses were sent over the 
course. Under the conditions, a contestant was en 
titled to use as many horses as he wished, but must 
change mounts at least twenty times in riding the 
ten miles, and must finish under a time limit of 
twenty-five minutes. Out of our abundance we de 
cided to use ten mounts, thus allotting each horse 
two dashes of a half mile with a rest between. 

The horse-breaking ended a few days before the 
appointed time. Las Palomas stood on the tiptoe 
of expectancy over the coming tourney. Even Miss 
Jean rode having a gentle saddle horse caught 
up for her use, and taking daily rides about the 
ranch, to witness the practice, for she was as deeply 
interested as any of us in the forthcoming contests. 
Born to the soil of Texas, she was a horsewoman of 
no ordinary ability, and rode like a veteran. On 
the appointed day, Las Palomas was abandoned ; 
even the Mexican contingent joining in the exodus 
for Shepherd's, and only a few old servants remain 
ing at the ranch. As usual, Miss Jean started by 
ambulance the afternoon before, taking along a 
horse for her own saddle. The white element and 
the vaqueros made an early start, driving a remuda 



184 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

of thirty loose horses, several of which were out 
laws, and a bell mare. They were the picked horses 
of the ranch those which we expected to use in 
the contests, and a change of mounts for the entire 
outfit on reaching the martial field. We had herded 
the horses the night before, and the vaqueros were 
halfway to the ferry when we overtook them. Uncle 
Lance was with us and in the height of his glory, 
in one breath bragging on Enrique and Pasquale, 
and admonishing and cautioning Theodore and my 
self in the next. 

On nearing Shepherd's, Uncle Lance preceded 
us, to hunt up the committee and enter a man from 
Las Palomas for each of the contests. The ground 
had been well chosen, a large open bottom on 
the north side of the river and about a mile above 
the ferry. The lancing course was laid off; tem 
porary corrals had been built, to hold about thirty 
range cattle for the roping, and an equal number of 
outlaw horses for the riding contests ; at the upper 
end of the valley a half-mile circular racecourse 
had been staked off. Throwing our outlaws into the 
corral, and leaving the remuda in charge of two 
vaqueros, we galloped into Shepherd's with the 
gathering crowd. From all indications this would 
be a red-letter day at the ferry, for the attendance 
drained a section of country fully a hundred miles 
in diameter. On the north from Campbellton on the 
Atascosa to San Patricio on the home river to the 
south, and from the Blanco on the east to well up 



SUMMER OF '77 185 

the Frio and San Miguel on the west, horsemen 
were flocking by platoons. I did not know one man 
in twenty, but Deweese greeted them all as if they 
were near neighbors. Later in the morning, con 
veyances began to arrive from Oakville and near-by 
points, and the presence of women lent variety to 
the scene. 

Under the rules, all entries were to be made be 
fore ten o'clock. The contests were due to begin half 
an hour later, and each contestant was expected to 
be ready to compete in the order of his application. 
There were eight entries in the relay race all told, 
mine being the seventh, which gave me a good 
opportunity to study the riding of those who pre 
ceded me. There were ten or twelve entries each in 
the roping and riding contests, while the knights 
of the lance numbered an even thirty. On account 
of the large number of entries the contests would 
require a full day, running the three classes simulta 
neously, allowing a slight intermission for lunch. 
The selection of disinterested judges for each class 
slightly delayed the commencement. After changing 
horses on reaching the field, the contests with the 
lance opened with a lad from Ramirena, who gal 
loped over the course and got but a single ring. 
From the lateness of our entries, none of us would 
be called until afternoon, and we wandered at will 
from one section of the field to another. " Red " 
Earnest, from Waugh's ranch on the Frio, was the 
first entry in the relay race. He had a good mount 



186 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

of eight Spanish horses which he rode bareback, 
making many of his changes in less than fifteen sec 
onds apiece, and finishing full three minutes under 
the time limit. The feat was cheered to the echo, I 
joining with the rest, and numerous friendly bets 
were made that the time would not be lowered that 
day. Two other riders rode before the noon recess, 
only one of whom came under the time limit, and 
his time was a minute over Earnest's record. 

Miss Jean had camped the ambulance in sight of 
the field, and kept open house to all comers. Suspect 
ing that she would have Mrs. Hunter and Esther 
for lunch, if they were present, I avoided our party 
and took dinner with Mrs. Booth. Meanwhile Uncle 
Lance detailed Deweese and Happersett to handle 
my horses, allowing us five vaqueros, and distrib 
uting the other men as assistants to our other three 
contestants. The day was an ideal one for the con 
tests, rather warm during the morning, but tempered 
later by a fine afternoon breeze. It was after four 
o'clock when I was called, with Waugh's man still 
in the lead. Forming a small circle at the starting- 
point, each of our vaqueros led a pair of horses, in 
bridles only, around a ring, constantly having in 
hand eight of my mount of ten. As handlers, I had 
two good men in our segundo and Dan Happersett. 
I crossed the line amid the usual shouting with 
a running start, determined, if possible, to lower 
the record of Red Earnest. In making the changes, 
all I asked was a good grip on the mane, and I 



SUMMER OF '77 187 

found my seat as the horse shot away. The horses 
had broken into an easy sweat before the race began, 
and having stripped to the lowest possible ounce of 
clothing, I felt that I was getting out of them every 
fraction of speed they possessed. The ninth horse 
in my mount, a roan, for some unknown reason 
sulked at starting, then bolted out on the prairie, 
but got away with the loss of only about ten sec 
onds, running the half mile like a scared wolf. 
Until it came the roan's turn to go again, no 
untoward incident happened, friendly timekeepers 
posting me at every change of mounts. But when 
this bolter's turn came again, he reared and plunged 
away stiff-legged, crossed the inward furrow, and 
before I could turn him again to the track, cut 
inside the course for two stakes or possibly fifty 
yards. By this time I was beyond recall, but as 
I came round and passed the starting-point, the 
judges attempted to stop me, and I well knew my 
chances were over. Uncle Lance promptly waived 
all rights to the award, and I was allowed to finish 
the race, lowering Earnest's time over twenty sec 
onds. The eighth contestant, so I learned later, 
barely came under the time limit. 

The vaqueros took charge of the relay mounts, 
and, reinvesting myself in my discarded clothing, 
I mounted my horse to leave the field, when who 
should gallop up and extend sympathy and con 
gratulations but Miss Jean and my old sweetheart. 
There was no avoiding them, and discourtesy to the 



188 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

mistress of Las Palomas -being out of the question, 
I greeted Esther with an affected warmth and cor 
diality, As I released her hand I could not help no 
ticing how she had saddened into a serious woman, 
while the gentleness in her voice condemned me 
for my attitude toward her. But Miss Jean art 
fully gave us little time for embarrassment, invit 
ing me to show them the unconcluded programme. 
From contest to contest, we rode the field until the 
sun went down, and the trials ended. 

It was my first tournament and nothing escaped 
my notice. There were fully one hundred and fifty 
women and girls, and possibly double that number 
of men, old and young, every one mounted and 
galloping from one point of the field to another. 
Blushing maidens and their swains dropped out of 
the throng, and from shady vantage points watched 
the crowd surge back and forth across the field 
of action. We were sorry to miss Enrique's rop 
ing ; for having snapped his saddle horn with the 
first cast, he recovered his rope, fastened it to the 
fork of his saddletree, and tied his steer in fifty- 
four seconds, or within ten of the winner's record. 
When he apologized to Miss Jean for his bad luck, 
hat in hand and his eyes as big as saucers, one 
would have supposed he had brought lasting dis 
grace on Las Palomas. 

We were more fortunate in witnessing Pasquale's 
riding. For this contest outlaws and spoilt horses 
had been collected from every quarter. Riders 



SUMMER OF '77 189 

drew their mounts by lot, and Pasquale drew a 
cinnamon-colored coyote from the ranch of " Uncle 
Nate " Wilson of Kamirena. Uncle Nate was feel 
ing in fine fettle, and when he learned that his con 
tribution to the outlaw horses had been drawn by 
a Las Palomas man, he hunted up the 'ranchero. 
" I '11 bet you a new five-dollar hat that that cin 
namon horse throws your vaquero so high that 
the birds build nests in his crotch before he hits 
the ground." Uncle Lance took the bet, and dis 
dainfully ran his eye up and down his old friend, 
finally remarking, " Nate, you ought to keep per 
fectly sober on an occasion like this you 're lia 
ble to lose all your money." 

Pasquale was a shallow-brained, clownish fellow, 
and after saddling up, as he led the coyote into 
the open to mount, he imitated a drunken va 
quero. Tipsily admonishing the horse in Spanish 
to behave himself, he vaulted into the saddle and 
clouted his mount over the head with his hat. The 
coyote resorted to every ruse known to a bucking 
horse to unseat his rider, in the midst of which 
Pasquale, languidly lolling in his saddle, took a 
small bottle from his pocket, and, drinking its con 
tents, tossed it backward over his head. " Look at 
that, Nate," said Uncle Lance, slapping Mr. Wil 
son with his hat ; " that 's one of the Las Palomas 
vaqueros, bred with just sense enough to ride any 
thing that wears hair. We '11 look at those new 
hats this evening." 



190 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

In the fancy riding which followed, Pasquale did 
a number of stunts. He picked up hat and hand 
kerchief from the ground at full speed, and like 
wise gathered up silver dollars from alternate sides 
of his horse as the animal sped over a short course. 
Stripping off his saddle and bridle, he rode the 
naked horse with the grace of an Indian, and but 
for his clownish indifference and the apparent ease 
with which he did things, the judges might have 
taken his work more seriously. As it was, our out 
fit and those friendly to our ranch were proud of 
his performance, but among outsiders, and even the 
judges, it was generally believed that he was tipsy, 
which was an injustice to him. 

On the conclusion of the contest with the lance, 
among the thirty participants, four were tied on 
honors, one of whom was Theodore Quayle. The 
other contests being over, the crowd gathered round 
the lancing course, excitement being at its highest 
pitch. A lad from the Blanco was the first called 
for on the finals, and after three efforts failed to 
make good his former trial. Quayle was the next 
called, and as he sped down the course my heart 
stood still for a moment ; but as he returned, hold 
ing high his lance, five rings were impaled upon 
it. He was entitled to two more trials, but rested 
on his record until it was tied or beaten, and the 
next man was called. Forcing her way through 
the crowded field, Miss Jean warmly congratulated 
Theodore, leaving Esther to my tender care. But 




HE SPED DOWN THE COURSE 



SUMMER OF '77 191 

at this juncture, my old sweetheart caught sight of 
Frances Vaux and some gallant approaching from 
the river's shade, and together we galloped out to 
meet them. Miss Vaux's escort was a neighbor lad 
from the Frio, but both he and I for the time be 
ing were relegated to oblivion, in the prospects of 
a Las Palomas man by the name of Quayle winning 
the lancing contest. Miss Frances, with a shrug, 
was for denying all interest in the result, but Esther 
and I doubled on her, forcing her to admit " that 
it would be real nice if Teddy should win." I never 
was so aggravated over the indifference of a girl in 
my life, and my regard for my former sweetheart, 
on account of her enthusiasm for a Las Palomas 
lad, kindled anew within me. 

But as the third man sped over the course, we 
hastily returned to watch the final results. After a 
last trial the man threw down his lance, and, rid 
ing up, congratulated Quayle. The last contestant 
was a red-headed fellow from the Atascosa above 
Oakville, and seemed to have a host of friends. On 
his first trial over the course, he stripped four rings, 
but on neither subsequent effort did he equal his 
first attempt. Imitating the former contestant, the 
red-headed fellow broke his lance and congratulated 
the winner. 

The tourney was over. Esther and I urged Miss 
Frances to ride over with us and congratulate 
Quayle. She demurred ; but as the crowd scattered 
I caught Theodore's eye and, signaling to him, he 



192 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

rode out of the crowd and joined us. The com 
pliments of Miss Vaux to the winner were insipid 
and lifeless, while Esther, as if to atone for her 
friend's lack of interest, beamed with happiness 
over Quayle's good luck. Poor Teddy hardly knew 
which way to turn, and, nice girl as she was, I al 
most hated Miss Frances for her indifferent atti 
tude. A plain, blunt fellow though he was, Quayle 
had noticed the coolness in the greeting of the 
young lady whom he no doubt had had in mind 
for months, in case he should win the privilege, to 
crown as Queen of the ball. Piqued and unsettled 
in his mind, he excused himself on some trivial pre 
tense and withdrew. Every one was scattering to 
the picnic grounds for supper, and under the pre 
tense of escorting Esther to the Vaux conveyance, 
I accompanied the young ladies. Managing to fall 
to the rear of Miss Frances and her gallant for the 
day, I bluntly asked my old sweetheart if she un 
derstood the attitude of her friend. For reply she 
gave me a pitying glance, saying, " Oh, you boys 
know so little about a girl ! You see that Teddy 
chooses Frances for his Queen to-night, and leave 
the rest to me." 

On reaching their picnic camp, I excused myself, 
promising to meet them later at the dance, and rode 
for our ambulance. Tiburcio had supper all ready, 
and after it was over I called Theodore to one side 
and repeated Esther's message. Quayle was still 
doubtful, and I called Miss Jean to my assistance, 



SUMMER OF '77 193 

hoping to convince him that Miss Vaux was not 
unfriendly towards him. "You always want to 
judge a woman by contraries," said Miss Jean, 
seating herself on the log beside us. " When it 
comes to acting her part, always depend on a girl 
to conceal her true feelings, especially if she has 
tact. Now, from what you boys say, my judgment 
is that she 'd cry her eyes out if any other girl was 
chosen Queen." 

Uncle Lance had promised Mr. Wilson to take 
supper with his family, and as we were all sprucing 
up for the dance, he returned. He had not been 
present at the finals of the lancing contest, but from 
guests of the Wilsons' had learned that one of his 
boys had won the honors. So on riding into camp, 
as the finishing touches were being added to our 
rustic toilets, he accosted Quayle and said : " Well, 
Theo, they tell me that you won the elephant. 
Great Scott, boy, that's the best luck that has 
struck Las Palomas since the big rain a year ago 
this month! Of course, we all understand that 
you 're to choose the oldest Vaux girl. What 's 
that? You don't know? Well, I do. I 've had that 
all planned out, in case you won, ever since we de 
cided that you was to contest as the representa 
tive of Las Palomas. And now you want to balk, 
do you?" 

Uncle Lance was showing some spirit, but his 
sister checked him with this explanation : " Just 
because Miss Frances did n't show any enthusiasm 



194 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

over Theo winning, he and Tom somehow have got 
the idea in their minds that she don't care a rap to 
be chosen Queen. I 've tried to explain it to them, 
but the boys don't understand girls, that's all. 
Why, if Theo was to choose any other girl, she 'd 
set the river afire." 

" That 's it, is it ? " snorted Uncle Lance, pulling 
his gray mustaches. " Well, I 've known for some 
time that Tom did n't have good sense, but I have 
always given you, Theo, credit for having a little. 
I '11 gamble my all that what Jean says is Bible 
truth. Did n't I have my eye on you and that girl 
for nearly a week during the hunt a year ago, and 
have n't you been riding my horses over to the Frio 
once or twice a month ever since ? You can read a 
brand as far as I can, but I can see that you 're 
as blind as a bat about a girl. Now, young fellow, 
listen to me: when the master of ceremonies an 
nounces the winners of the day, and your name is 
called, throw out your brisket, stand straight on 
those bow-legs of yours, step forward and claim 
your privilege. When the wreath is tendered you, 
accept it, carry it to the lady of your choice, and 
kneeling before her, if she bids you arise, place the 
crown on her brow and lead the grand march. I 'd 
gladly give Las Palomas and every hoof on it for 
your years and chance." 

The festivities began with falling darkness. The 
master of ceremonies, a school teacher from Oak- 
ville, read out the successful contestants and the 



SUMMER OF '77 195 

prizes to which they were entitled. The name of 
Theodore Quayle was the last to be called, and ex 
cusing himself to Miss Jean, who had him in tow, he 
walked forward with a military air, executing every 
movement in the ceremony like an actor. As the 
music struck up, he and the blushing Frances Vaux, 
rare in rustic beauty and crowned with a wreath of 
live-oak leaves, led the opening march. Hundreds 
of hands clapped in approval, and as the applause 
quieted down, I turned to look for a partner, only 
to meet Miss Jean and my former sweetheart. Both 
were in a seventh heaven of delight, and promptly 
took occasion to remind me of my lack of foresight, 
repeating in chorus, " Did n't I tell you ? " But the 
music had broken into a waltz, which precluded any 
argument, and on the mistress remarking "You 
young folks are missing a fine dance," involun 
tarily my arm encircled my old sweetheart, and we 
drifted away into elysian fields. 

The night after the first tournament at Shepherd's 
on the Nueces in June, '77, lingers as a pleasant 
memory. Veiled in hazy retrospect, attempting to 
recall it is like inviting the return of childish dreams 
when one has reached the years of maturity. If I 
danced that night with any other girl than poor 
Esther McLeod, the fact has certainly escaped me. 
But somewhere in the archives of memory there is an 
indelible picture of a stroll through dimly lighted pic. 
nic grounds ; of sitting on a rustic settee, built round 
the base of a patriarchal live-oak, and listening to 



196 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

a broken-hearted woman lay bare the sorrows which 
less than a year had brought her. I distinctly recall 
that my eyes, though unused to weeping, filled with 
tears, when Esther in words of deepest sorrow and 
contrition begged me to forgive her heedless and 
reckless act. Could I harbor resentment in the face 
of such entreaty ? The impulsiveness of youth re 
fused to believe that true happiness had gone out 
of her life. She was again to me as she had been 
before her unfortunate marriage, and must be re 
leased from the hateful bonds that bound her. Firm 
in this resolve, dawn stole upon us, still sitting at 
the root of the old oak, oblivious and happy in each 
other's presence, having pledged anew our troth for 
time and eternity. 

With the breaking of day the revelers dispersed. 
Quite a large contingent from those present rode 
several miles up the river with our party. The re- 
muda had been sent home the evening before with 
the returning vaqueros, while the impatience of 
the ambulance mules frequently carried them in ad 
vance of the cavalcade. The mistress of Las Palo- 
mas had as her guest returning, Miss Jule Wilson, 
and the first time they passed us, some four or five 
miles above the ferry, I noticed Uncle Lance ride 
up, swaggering in his saddle, and poke Glenn Gallup 
in the ribs, with a wink and nod towards the con 
veyance as the mules dashed past. The pace we 
were traveling would carry us home by the middle 
of the forenoon, and once we were reduced to 



SUMMER OF '77 197 

the home crowd, the old matchmaker broke out 
enthusiastically : 

" This tourney was what I call a success. I don't 
care a tinker's darn for the prizes, but the way 
you boys built up to the girls last night warmed 
the sluggish blood in my old veins. Even if Cotton 
did claim a dance or two with the oldest Vaux girl, 
if Theo and her don't make the riffle now well, 
they simply can't help it, having gone so far. And 
did any of you notice Scales and old June and Dan 
cutting the pigeon wing like colts ? I reckon Quirk 
will have to make some new resolutions this morn 
ing. Oh, I heard about your declaring that you 
never wanted to see Esther McLeod again. That 's 
all right, son, but hereafter remember that a resolve 
about a woman is only good for the day it is made, 
or until you meet her. And notice, will you, ahead 
yonder, that sister of mine playing second fiddle as 
a matchmaker. Glenn, if I was you, the next time 
Miss Jule looks back this way, I 'd play sick, and 
maybe they 'd let you ride in the ambulance. I can 
see at a glance that she 's being poorly entertained." 



CHAPTER Xin 

HIDE HUNTING 

DURING the month of June only two showers fell, 
which revived the grass but added not a drop of 
water to our tank supply or to the river. When 
the coast winds which followed set in, all hope for 
rain passed for another year. During the residence 
of the old ranchero at Las Palomas, the Nueces 
valley had suffered several severe drouths as disas 
trous in their effects as a pestilence. There were 
places in its miles of meanderings across our range 
where the river was paved with the bones of cattle 
which had perished with thirst. Realizing that such 
disasters repeat themselves, the ranch was set in 
order. That fall we branded the calf crop with un 
usual care. In every possible quarter, we prepared 
for the worst. A dozen wells were sunk over the 
tract and equipped with windmills. There was 
sufficient water in the river and tanks during the 
summer and fall, but by Christmas the range was 
eaten off until the cattle, ranging far, came in only 
every other day to slake their thirst. 

The social gayeties of the countryside received a 
check from the threatened drouth. At Las Palomas 
we observed only the usual Christmas festivities. 



HIDE HUNTING 199 

Miss Jean always made it a point to have something 
extra for the holiday season, not only in her own 
household, but also among the Mexican families at 
headquarters and the outlying ranchites. Among 
a number of delicacies brought up this time from 
Shepherd's was a box of Florida oranges, and in 
assisting Miss Jean to fill the baskets for each jacal, 
Aaron Scales opened this box of oranges and found 
a letter, evidently placed there by some mischiev 
ous girl in the packery from which the oranges were 
shipped. There was not only a letter but a visiting 
card and a small photograph of the writer. This 
could only be accepted by the discoverer as a chal 
lenge, for the sender surely knew this particular box 
was intended for shipment to Texas, and banteringly 
invited the recipient to reply. The missive certainly 
fell upon fertile soil, and Scales, by right of discov 
ery, delegated to himself the pleasure of answering. 
Scales was the black sheep of Las Palomas. Born 
of a rich, aristocratic family in Maryland, he had 
early developed into a good-natured but reckless 
spendthrift, and his disreputable associates had con 
tributed no small part in forcing him to the refuge 
of a cattle ranch. He had been offered every op 
portunity to secure a good education, but during his 
last year in college had been expelled, and rather 
than face parental reproach had taken passage in 
a coast schooner for Galveston, Texas. Then by 
easy stages he drifted westward, and at last, to his 
liking, found a home at Las Palomas. He made 



200 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

himself a useful man on the ranch, but, not having 
been bred to the occupation and with a tendency to 
waywardness, gave a rather free rein to the vaga 
bond spirit which possessed him. He was a good 
rider, even for a country where every one was a 
born horseman, but the use of the rope was an art 
he never attempted to master. 

With the conclusion of the holiday festivities 
and on the return of the absentees, a feature, new 
to me in cattle life, presented itself hide hunting. 
Freighters who brought merchandise from the coast 
towns to the merchants of the interior were offering 
very liberal terms for return cargoes. About the 
only local product was flint hides, and of these there 
were very few, but the merchant at Shepherd's 
Ferry offered so generous inducements that Uncle 
Lance investigated the matter ; the result was his 
determination to rid his range of the old, logy, 
worthless bulls. Heretofore they had been allowed 
to die of old age, but ten cents a pound for flint 
hides was an encouragement to remove these cum- 
berers of the range, and turn them to some profit. 
So we were ordered to kill every bull on the ranch 
over seven years old. 

In our round-up for branding, we had driven to 
the home range all outside cattle indiscriminately. 
They were still ranging near, so that at the com 
mencement of this work nearly all the bulls in our 
brand were watering from the Nueces. These old 
residenter bulls never ranged over a mile away 



HIDE HUNTING 201 

from water, and during the middle of the day they 
could be found along the river bank. Many of them 
were ten to twelve years old, and were as useless 
on the range as drones in autumn to a colony of 
honey-bees. Las Palomas boasted quite an arsenal 
of firearms, of every make and pattern, from a mus 
ket to a repeater. The outfit was divided into two 
squads, one going down nearly to Shepherd's, and 
the other beginning operations considerably above 
the Ganso. June Deweese took the down-river end, 
while Uncle Lance took some ten of us with one 
wagon on the up-river trip. To me this had all the 
appearance of a picnic. But the work proved to 
be anything but a picnic. To make the kill was 
most difficult. Not willing to leave the carcasses 
near the river, we usually sought the bulls com 
ing in to water ; but an ordinary charge of powder 
and lead, even when well directed at the forehead, 
rarely killed and tended rather to aggravate the 
creature. Besides, as we were compelled in nearly 
every instance to shoot from horseback, it was al 
most impossible to deliver an effective shot from in 
front. After one or more unsuccessful shots, the 
bull usually started for the nearest thicket, or the 
river ; then our ropes came into use. The work was 
very slow ; for though we operated in pairs, the 
first week we did not average a hide a day to the 
man ; after killing, there was the animal to skin, 
the hide to be dragged from a saddle pommel into 
a hide yard and pegged out to dry. 



202 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

Until we had accumulated a load of hides, Ti- 
burcio Leal, our teamster, fell to me as partner. 
We had with us an abundance of our best horses, 
and those who were reliable with the rope had first 
choice of the remuda. Tiburcio was well mounted, 
but, on account of his years, was timid about using 
a rope ; and well he might be, for frequently we 
found ourselves in a humorous predicament, and 
sometimes in one so grave that hilarity was not even 
a remote possibility. 

The second morning of the hunt, Tiburcio and I 
singled out a big black bull about a mile from the 
river. I had not yet been convinced that I could 
not make an effective shot from in front, and, dis 
mounting, attracted the bull's attention and fired. 
The shot did not even stagger him and he charged 
us ; our horses avoided his rush, and he started for 
the river. Sheathing my carbine, I took down my 
rope and caught him before he had gone a hundred 
yards. As I threw my horse on his haunches to re 
ceive the shock, the weight and momentum of the 
bull dragged my double-cinched saddle over my 
horse's head and sent me sprawling on the ground. 
In wrapping the loose end of the rope around the 
pommel of the saddle, I had given it a half hitch, 
and as I came to my feet my saddle and carbine 
were bumping merrily along after Toro. Regain 
ing my horse, I soon overtook Tiburcio, who was 
attempting to turn the animal back from the river, 
and urged him to " tie on," but he hesitated, offering 



HIDE HUNTING 203 

me his horse instead. As there was no time to 
waste, we changed horses like relay riders. I soon 
overtook the animal and made a successful cast, 
catching the bull by the front feet. I threw Tibur- 
cio's horse, like a wheeler, back on his haunches, 
and, on bringing the rope taut, fetched Toro to his 
knees ; but with the strain the half -inch manila rope 
snapped at the pommel like a twine string. Then 
we were at our wit's end, the bull lumbering away 
with the second rope noosed over one fore foot, and 
leaving my saddle far in the rear. But after a 
moment's hesitation my partner and I doubled on 
him, to make trial of our guns, Tiburcio having a 
favorite old musket while I had only my six-shooter. 
Tiburcio, on my stripped horse, overtook the bull 
first, and attempted to turn him, but El Toro was 
not to be stopped. On coming up myself, I tried 
the same tactics, firing several shots into the ground 
in front of him but without deflecting the enraged 
bull from his course. Then I unloosed a Mexican 
blanket from Tiburcio's saddle, and flaunting it in 
his face, led him like a matador inviting a charge. 
This held his attention until Tiburcio, gaining cour 
age, dashed past him from the rear and planted a 
musket ball behind the base of his ear, and the 
patriarch succumbed. 

After the first few days' work, we found that 
the most vulnerable spot was where the spinal cord 
connects with the base of the brain. A well-di 
rected shot at this point, even from a six-shooter, 



204 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

never failed to bring Toro to grass ; and some of us 
became so expert that we could deliver this favorite 
shot from a running horse. The trouble was to get 
the bull to run evenly. That was one thing he ob 
jected to, and yet unless he did we could not advan 
tageously attack him with a six-shooter. Many of 
these old bulls were surly in disposition, and even 
when they did run, there was no telling what mo 
ment they would sulk, stop without an instant's no 
tice, and attempt to gore a passing horse. 

We usually camped two or three days at a place, 
taking in both sides of the river, and after the work 
was once well under way we kept our wagon busy 
hauling the dry hides to a common yard on the 
river opposite Las Paloinas. Without apology, it 
can be admitted that we did not confine our kill 
ing to the Las Palomas brand alone, but all cum- 
berers on our range met the same fate. There were 
numerous stray bulls belonging to distant ranches 
which had taken up their abode on the Nueces, all 
of which were fish to our net. We kept a brand 
tally of every bull thus killed ; for the primary mo 
tive was not one of profit, but to rid the range of 
these drones. 

When we had been at work some two weeks, we 
had an exciting chase one afternoon in which En 
rique Lopez figured as the hero. In coming in to 
dinner that day, Uncle Lance told of the chase after 
a young ladino bull with which we were all familiar. 
The old ranchero's hatred to wild cattle had caused 



HIDE HUNTING 205 

him that morning to risk a long shot at this outlaw, 
wounding him. Juan Leal and Enrique Lopez, 
who were there, had both tried their marksmanship 
and their ropes on him in vain. Dragging down 
horses and snapping ropes, the bull made his es 
cape into a chaparral thicket. He must have been 
exceedingly nimble ; for I have seen Uncle Lance 
kill a running deer at a hundred yards with a 
rifle. At any rate, the entire squad turned out 
after dinner to renew the attack. We saddled the 
best horses in our remuda for the occasion, and 
sallied forth to the lair of the ladino bull, like a 
procession of professional bull-fighters. 

The chaparral thicket in which the outlaw had 
taken refuge lay about a mile and a half back from 
the river and contained about two acres. On reach 
ing the edge of the thicket, Uncle Lance called for 
volunteers to beat the brush and rout out the bull. 
As this must be done on foot, responses were not 
numerous. But our employer relieved the embar 
rassment by assigning vaqueros to the duty, also 
directing Enrique to take one point of the thicket 
and me the other, with instructions to use our ropes 
should the outlaw quit the thicket for the river. 
Detailing Tiburcio, who was with us that afternoon, 
to assist him in leading the loose saddle horses, he 
divided the six other men into two squads under 
Theodore Quayle and Dan Happersett. When all 
was ready, Enrique and myself took up our posi 
tions, hiding in the outlying mesquite brush ; leav- 



206 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

ing the loose horses under saddle in the cover 
at a distance. The thicket was oval in form, lying 
with a point towards the river, and we all felt con 
fident if the bull were started he would make for 
the timber on the river. With a whoop and hur 
rah and a free discharge of firearms, the beaters 
entered the chaparral. From my position I could see 
Enrique lying along the neck of his horse about 
fifty yards distant ; and I had fully made up my 
mind to give that bucolic vaquero the first chance. 
During the past two weeks my enthusiasm for 
roping stray bulls had undergone a change ; I was 
now quite willing that all honors of the afternoon 
should fall to Enrique. The beaters approached 
without giving any warning that the bull had been 
sighted, and so great was the strain and tension 
that I could feel the beating of my horse's heart 
beneath me. The suspense was finally broken by 
one or two shots in rapid succession, and as the 
sound died away, the voice of Juan Leal rang out 
distinctly : " Cuidado por el toro ! " and the next 
moment there was a cracking of brush and a pale 
dun bull broke cover. 

For a moment he halted on the border of the 
thicket : then, as the din of the beaters increased, 
struck boldly across the prairie for the river. En 
rique and I were after him without loss of time. 
Enrique made a successful cast for his horns, and 
reined in his horse; but when the slack of the rope 
was taken up the rear cinch broke, the saddle was 



HIDE HUNTING 207 

jerked forward on the horse's withers, and Enrique 
was compelled to free the rope or have his horse 
dragged down. I saw the mishap, and, giving my 
horse the rowel, rode at the bull and threw my rope. 
The loop neatly encircled his front feet, and when 
the shock came between horse and bull, it fetched the 
toro a somersault in the air, but unhappily took off 
the pommel of my saddle. The bull was on his feet in 
a jiffy, and before I could recover my rope, Enrique, 
who had reset his saddle, passed me, followed by 
the entire squad. Uncle Lance had been a witness 
to both mishaps, and on overtaking us urged me to 
tie on to the bull again. For answer I could only 
point to my missing pommel ; but every man in the 
squad had loosened his rope, and it looked as if 
they would all fasten on to the ladino, for they were 
al} good ropers. Man after man threw his loop on 
him ; but the dun outlaw snapped the ropes as if 
they had been cotton strings, dragging down two 
horses with their riders and leaving them in the 
rear. I rode up alongside Enrique and offered him 
my rope, but he refused it, knowing it would be 
useless to try again with only a single cinch on his 
saddle. The young rascal had a daring idea in 
mind. We were within a quarter mile of the river, 
and escape of the outlaw seemed probable, when 
Enrique rode down on the bull, took up his tail, and, 
wrapping the brush on the pommel of his saddle, 
turned his horse abruptly to the left, rolling the 
bull over like a hoop, and of conrse dismounting 



210 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

baled all the stray hides separate, so they can be 
looked over. But it 's nearly noon, and you 'd bet 
ter all ride up to the ranch for dinner they feed 
better up there than we do in camp." 

Rather than make a three-mile ride to the house, 
the visitors took dinner with the wagon, and about 
one o'clock Deweese and a vaquero came in, drag 
ging a hide between them. June cordially greeted 
the callers, including Henry Annear, who repre 
sented the Las Norias ranch, though I suppose it 
was well known to every one present that there was 
no love lost between them. Uncle Lance asked 
our foreman for his list of outside brands, ex 
plaining that these men wished to look them over. 
Everything seemed perfectly satisfactory to all par 
ties concerned, and after remaining in camp over 
an hour, Deweese and the vaquero saddled fresh 
horses and rode away. The visitors seemed in no 
hurry to go, so Uncle Lance sat around camp en 
tertaining them, while the rest of us proceeded 
with our work of baling. Before leaving, however, 
the entire party in company of our employer took 
a stroll about the hide yard, which was some dis 
tance from camp. During this tour of inspection, 
Annear asked which were the bales of outside hides 
taken in Deweese's division, claiming he represented 
a number of brands outside of Las Norias. The 
bales were pointed out and some dozen unbaled 
hides looked over. On a count the baled and un 
baled hides were found to tally exactly with the 



HIDE HUNTING 211 

list submitted. But unfortunately Annear took oc 
casion to insinuate that the list of brands rendered 
had been " doctored." Uncle Lance paid little at 
tention, though he heard, but the other visitors 
remonstrated with Annear. This only seemed to 
make him more contentious. Finally matters came 
to an open rupture when Annear demanded that 
the cordage be cut on certain bales to allow him to 
inspect them. Possibly he was within his rights, 
but on the Nueces during the seventies, to ques 
tion a man's word was equivalent to calling him 
a liar ; and liar was a fighting word all over the 
cattle range. 

" Well, Henry," said Uncle Lance, rather firmly, 
" if you are not satisfied, I suppose I '11 have to 
open the bales for you, but before I do, I 'm going 
to send after June. Neither you nor any one else 
can cast any reflections on a man in my employ. 
No unjust act can be charged in my presence 
against an absent man. The vaqueros tell me that 
my foreman is only around the bend of the river, 
and I 'm going to ask all you gentlemen to remain 
until I can send for him." 

John Cotton was dispatched after Deweese. 
Conversation meanwhile became polite and changed 
to other subjects. Those of us at work baling hides 
went ahead as if nothing unusual was on the tapis. 
The visitors were all armed, which was nothing 
unusual, for the wearing of six-shooters was as 
common as the wearing of boots. During the in- 



210 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

baled all the stray hides separate, so they can be 
looked over. But it 's nearly noon, and you 'd bet 
ter all ride up to the ranch for dinner they feed 
better up there than we do in camp." 

Kather than make a three-mile ride to the house, 
the visitors took dinner with the wagon, and about 
one o'clock Deweese and a vaquero came in, drag 
ging a hide between them. June cordially greeted 
the callers, including Henry Annear, who repre 
sented the Las Norias ranch, though I suppose it 
was well known to every one present that there was 
no love lost between them. Uncle Lance asked 
our foreman for his list of outside brands, ex 
plaining that these men wished to look them over. 
Everything seemed perfectly satisfactory to all par 
ties concerned, and after remaining in camp over 
an hour, Deweese and the vaquero saddled fresh 
horses and rode away. The visitors seemed in no 
hurry to go, so Uncle Lance sat around camp en 
tertaining them, while the rest of us proceeded 
with our work of baling. Before leaving, however, 
the entire party in company of our employer took 
a stroll about the hide yard, which was some dis 
tance from camp. During this tour of inspection, 
Annear asked which were the bales of outside hides 
taken in Deweese's division, claiming he represented 
a number of brands outside of Las Norias. The 
bales were pointed out and some dozen unbaled 
hides looked over. On a count the baled and un 
baled hides were found to tally exactly with the 



HIDE HUNTING 211 

list submitted. But unfortunately Annear took oc 
casion to insinuate that the list of brands rendered 
had been " doctored." Uncle Lance paid little at 
tention, though he heard, but the other visitors 
remonstrated with Annear. This only seemed to 
make him more contentious. Finally matters came 
to an open rupture when Annear demanded that 
the cordage be cut on certain bales to allow him to 
inspect them. Possibly he was within his rights, 
but on the Nueces during the seventies, to ques 
tion a man's word was equivalent to calling him 
a liar ; and liar was a fighting word all over the 
cattle range. 

" Well, Henry," said Uncle Lance, rather firmly, 
" if you are not satisfied, I suppose I '11 have to 
open the bales for you, but before I do, I 'm going 
to send after June. Neither you nor any one else 
can cast any reflections on a man in my employ. 
No unjust act can be charged in my presence 
against an absent man. The vaqueros tell me that 
my foreman is only around the bend of the river, 
and I 'm going to ask all you gentlemen to remain 
until I can send for him." 

John Cotton was dispatched after Deweese. 
Conversation meanwhile became polite and changed 
to other subjects. Those of us at work baling hides 
went ahead as if nothing unusual was on the tapis. 
The visitors were all armed, which was nothing 
unusual, for the wearing of six-shooters was as 
common as the wearing of boots. During the in- 



212 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

terim, several level-headed visitors took Henry An- 
near to one side, evidently to reason with him and 
urge an apology, for they could readily see that 
Uncle Lance was justly offended. But it seemed 
that Annear would listen to no one, and while they 
were yet conversing among themselves, John Cotton 
and our foreman galloped around the bend of the 
river and rode up to the yard. No doubt Cotton 
had explained the situation, but as they dismounted 
Uncle Lance stepped between his foreman and 
Annear, saying : 

" June, Henry, here, questions the honesty of 
your list of strays killed, and insists on our cutting 
the bales for his inspection." Turning to Annear, 
Uncle Lance inquired, "Do you still insist on 
opening the bales ? " 

" Yes, sir, I do." 

Deweese stepped to one side of his employer, 
saying to Annear : " You offer to cut a bale here 
to-day, and I'll cut your heart out. Behind my 
back, you questioned my word. Question it to my 
face, you dirty sneak." 

Annear sprang backward and to one side, draw 
ing a six-shooter in the movement, while June 
was equally active. Like a flash, two shots rang 
out. Following the reports, Henry turned halfway 
round, while Deweese staggered a step backward. 
Taking advantage of the instant, Uncle Lance 
sprang like a panther on to June and bore him to 
the ground, while the visitors fell on Annear and 



HIDE HUNTING 213 

disarmed him in a flash. They were dragged strug 
gling farther apart, and after some semblance of 
sanity had returned, we stripped our foreman and 
found an ugly flesh wound crossing his side under 
the armpit, the bullet having been deflected by 
a rib. Annear had fared worse, and was spitting 
blood freely, and the marks of exit and entrance of 
the bullet indicated that the point of one lung had 
been slightly chipped. 

" I suppose this outcome is what you might call 
the amende honorable" smilingly said George Na 
than, one of the visitors, later to Uncle Lance. " I 
always knew there was a little bad blood existing 
between the boys, but I had no idea that it would 
flash in the pan so suddenly or I 'd have stayed at 
home. Shooting always lets me out. But the ques 
tion now is, How are we going to get our man 
home?" 

Uncle Lance at once offered them horses and a 
wagon, in case Annear would not go into Las Pa- 
lomas. This he objected to, so a wagon was fitted 
up, and, promising to return it the next day, our 
visitors departed with the best of feelings, save be 
tween the two belligerents. We sent June into the 
ranch and a man to Oakville after a surgeon, and 
resumed our work in the hide yard as if nothing 
had happened. Somewhere I have seen the state 
ment that the climate of California was especially 
conducive to the healing of gunshot wounds. The 
same claim might be made in behalf of the Nueces 



214 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

valley, for within a month both the combatants 
were again in their saddles. 

Within a week after this incident, we concluded 
our work and the hides were ready for the freight 
ers. We had spent over a month and had taken 
fully seven hundred hides, many of which, when 
dry, would weigh one hundred pounds, the total 
having a value of between five and six thousand 
dollars. Like their predecessors the buffalo, the 
remains of the ladinos were left to enrich the soil ; 
but there was no danger of the extinction of the 
species, for at Las Palomas it was the custom to 
allow every tenth male calf to grow up a bull. 



CHAPTER XIV 
A TWO YEARS' DROUTH 

THE spring of '78 was an early one, but the drouth 
continued, and after the hide hunting was over we 
rode our range almost night and day. Thousands 
of cattle had drifted down from the Frio River 
country, which section was suffering from drouth 
as badly as the Nueces. The new wells were fur 
nishing a limited supply of water, but we rigged 
pulleys on the best of them, and when the wind 
failed we had recourse to buckets and a rope 
worked from the pommel of a saddle. A breeze 
usually arose about ten in the morning and fell 
about midnight. During the lull the buckets rose 
and fell incessantly at eight wells, with no lack of 
suffering cattle in attendance to consume it as fast 
as it was hoisted. Many thirsty animals gorged 
themselves, and died in sight of the well ; weak 
ones being frequently trampled to death by the 
stronger, while flint hides were corded at every 
watering point. The river had quit flowing, and 
with the first warmth of spring the pools became 
rancid and stagnant. In sandy and subirrigated 
sections, under a March sun, the grass made a 
sickly effort to spring ; but it lacked substance, and 



216 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

so far from furnishing food for the cattle, it only 
weakened them. 

This was my first experience with a serious 
drouth. Uncle Lance, however, met the emergency 
as though it were part of the day's work, riding 
continually with the rest of us. During the latter 
part of March, Aaron Scales, two vaqueros, and 
myself came in one night from the Ganso and an 
nounced not over a month's supply of water in that 
creek. We also reported to our employer that dur 
ing our two days' ride, we had skinned some ten 
cattle, four of which were in our own brand. 

" That 's not as bad as it might be," said the 
old ranchero, philosophically. " You see, boys, I 've 
been through three drouths since I began ranching 
on this river. The second one, in '51, was the worst ; 
cattle skulls were as thick along the Nueces that 
year as sunflowers in August. In '66 it was nearly 
as bad, there being more cattle ; but it did n't hurt 
me very much, as mavericking had been good for 
some time before and for several years following, and 
I soon recovered my losses. The first one lasted three 
years, and had there been as many cattle as there 
are now, half of them would have died. The spring 
before the second drouth, I acted as padrino for 
Tiburcio and his wife, who was at that time a mere 
slip of a girl living at the Mission. Before they had 
time to get married, the dry spell set in and they 
put the wedding off until it should rain. I ridiculed 
the idea, but they were both superstitious and stuck 



A TWO YEARS' DROUTH 217 

it out. And honest, boys, there was n't enough rain 
fell in two years to wet your shirt. In my forty 
years on the Nueces, I 've seen hard times, but that 
drouth was the toughest of them all. Game and 
birds left the country, and the cattle were too poor 
to eat. Whenever our provisions ran low, I sent 
Tiburcio to the coast with a load of hides, using six 
yoke of oxen to handle a cargo of about a ton. The 
oxen were so poor that they had to stand twice in 
one place to make a shadow, and we would n't take 
gold for our flint hides but insisted on the staples 
of life. At one point on the road, Tiburcio had to 
give a quart of flour for watering his team both 
going and coming. They say that when the Jews 
quit a country, it 's time for the gentiles to leave. 
But we old timers are just like a horse that chooses 
a new range and will stay with it until he starves or 
dies with old age." 

I could see nothing reassuring in the outlook. 
Near the wells and along the river the stock had 
trampled out the grass until the ground was as bare 
as a city street. Miles distant from the water the 
old dry grass, with only an occasional green blade, 
was the only grazing for the cattle. The black, 
waxy soil on the first bottom of the river, on which 
the mesquite grass had flourished, was as bare now 
as a ploughed field, while the ground had cracked 
open in places to an incredible depth, so that with 
out exercising caution it was dangerous to ride 
across. This was the condition of the range at the 



218 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

approach of April. Our horse stock, to be sure, 
fared better, ranging farther and not requiring any 
thing like the amount of water needed by the cat 
tle. It was nothing unusual to meet a Las Palo- 
mas manada from ten to twelve miles from the 
river, and coming in only every second or third 
night to quench their thirst. We were fortunate 
in having an abundance of saddle horses, which, 
whether under saddle or not, were always given the 
preference in the matter of water. They were the 
motive power of the ranch, and during this crisis, 
though worked hard, must be favored in every pos 
sible manner. 

Early that spring the old ranchero sent Deweese 
to Lagarto in an attempt to sell Captain Byler a 
herd of horse stock for the trail. The mission was 
a failure, though our segundo offered to sell a thou 
sand, in the straight Las Palomas brand, at seven 
dollars a head on a year's credit. Even this was no 
inducement to the trail drover, and on Deweese's 
return my employer tried San Antonio and other 
points in Texas in the hope of finding a market. 
From several places favorable replies were received, 
particularly from places north of the Colorado River ; 
for the drouth was local and was chiefly confined 
to the southern portion of the state. There was 
enough encouragement in the letters to justify the 
old ranchero's attempt to reduce the demand on 
the ranch's water supply, by sending a herd of 
horse stock north on sale. Under ordinary condi- 



A TWO YEARS' DROUTH 219 

tions, every ranchman preferred to sell his surplus 
stock at the ranch, and Las Palomas was no ex 
ception, being generally congested with marketable 
animals. San Antonio was, however, beginning to 
be a local horse and mule market of some moment, 
and before my advent several small selected 
bunches of mares, mules, and saddle horses had 
been sent there, and had found a ready and profit 
able sale. 

But this was an emergency year, and it was de 
cided to send a herd of stock horses up the country. 
Accordingly, before April, we worked every manada 
which we expected to keep, cutting out all the two- 
year-old fillies. To these were added every mongrel- 
colored band to the number of twenty odd, and 
when ready to start the herd numbered a few over 
twelve hundred of all ages from yearlings up. A 
remuda of fifty saddle horses, broken in the spring 
of '76, were allotted to our use, and our segundo, 
myself, and five Mexican vaqueros were detailed to 
drive the herd. We were allowed two pack mules 
for our commissary, which was driven with the re 
muda. With instructions to sell and hurry home, 
we left oui* horse camp on the river, and started on 
the morning of the last day of March. 

Live-stock commission firms in San Antonio were 
notified of our coming, and with six men to the 
herd and the seventh driving the remuda, we put 
twenty miles behind us the first day. With the ex 
ception of water for saddle stock, which we hoisted 



220 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

from a well, there was no hope of watering the herd 
before reaching Mr. Booth's ranch on the Frio. He 
had been husbanding his water supply, and early 
the second evening we watered the herd to its con 
tentment from a single shaded pool. From the Frio 
we could not follow any road, but were compelled 
to direct our course wherever there was a prospect 
of water. By hobbling the bell mare of the remuda 
at evening, and making two watches of the night- 
herding, we easily systematized our work. Until we 
reached the San Antonio River, about twenty miles 
below the city, not over two days passed without 
water for all the stock, though, on account of the 
variations from our course, we were over a week in 
reaching San Antonio. Having moved the herd up 
near some old missions within five or six miles of the 
city, with an abundance of water and some grass, 
Deweese went into town, visiting the commission 
firms and looking for a buyer. Fortunately a firm, 
which was expecting our arrival, had a prospective 
purchaser from Fort Worth for about our number. 
Making a date with the firm to show our horses the 
next morning, our segundo returned to the herd, 
elated over the prospect of a sale. 

On their arrival the next morning, we had the 
horses already watered and were grazing them along 
an abrupt slope between the first and second bot 
toms of the river. The salesman understood his 
business, and drove the conveyance back and forth 
on the down hill side, below the herd, and the rise 



A TWO YEARS' DROUTH 221 

in the ground made our range stock look as big as 
American horses. After looking at the animals for 
an hour, from a buckboard, the prospective buyer 
insisted on looking at the remuda. But as these 
were gentle, he gave them a more critical examina 
tion, insisting on their being penned in a rope cor 
ral at our temporary camp, and had every horse 
that was then being ridden unsaddled to inspect 
their backs. The remuda was young, gentle, and 
sound, many of them submitting to be caught with 
out a rope. The buyer was pleased with them, and 
when the price came up for discussion Deweese 
artfully set a high figure on the saddle stock, and, 
to make his bluff good, offered to reserve them and 
take them back to the ranch. But Tuttle would not 
consider the herd without the remuda, and sparring 
between them continued until all three returned to 
town. 

It was a day of expectancy to the vaqueros and 
myself. In examining the saddle horses, the buyer 
acted like a cowman ; but as regarding the range 
stock, it was evident to me that his armor was vul 
nerable, and if he got any the best of our segundo 
he was welcome to it. Deweese returned shortly 
after dark, coming directly to the herd where I and 
two vaqueros were on guard, to inform us that he 
had sold lock, stock, and barrel, including the two 
pack mules. I felt like shouting over the good news, 
when June threw a damper on my enthusiasm by the 
news that he had sold for delivery at Fort Worth. 



222 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

44 You see," said Deweese, by way of explanation, 
" the buyer is foreman of a cattle company out on 
the forks of the Brazos in Young County. He don't 
sabe range horses as well as he does cows, and 
when we had agreed on the saddle stock, and there 
were only two bits between us on the herd, he 
offered me six bits a head all round, over and above 
his offer, if I would put them in Fort Worth, and 
I took him up so quick that I nearly bit my tongue 
doing it. Captain Redman tells me that it 's only 
about three hundred miles, and grass and water is 
reported good. I intended to take him up at his 
offer, anyhow, and seventy-five cents a head extra 
will make the old man nearly a thousand dollars, 
which is worth picking up. We '11 put them there 
easy in three weeks, learn the trail and see the 
country besides. Uncle Lance can't have any kick 
coming, for I offered them to Captain Byler for 
seven dollars, and here I'm getting ten six-bits 
nearly four thousand dollars' advance, and we 
won't be gone five weeks. Any money down ? Well, 
I should remark! Five thousand deposited with 
Smith & Redman, and I was particular to have it 
inserted in the contract between us that every sad 
dle horse, mare, mule, gelding, and filly was to be 
in the straight * horse hoof ' brand. There is a pos 
sibility that when Tuttle sees them again at Fort 
Worth, they won't look as large as they did on that 
hillside this morning." 

We made an early start from San Antonio the 



A TWO YEARS' DROUTH 223 

next morning, passing to the westward of the then 
straggling city. The vaqueros were disturbed over 
the journey, for Fort Worth was as foreign to them 
as a European seaport, but I jollied them into be 
lieving it was but a little pasear. Though I had 
never ridden on a train myself, I pictured to them 
the luxuriant ease with which we would return, 
as well as the trip by stage to Oakville. I threw 
enough enthusiasm into my description of the good 
time we were going to have, coupled with their 
confidence in Deweese, to convince them in spite of 
their forebodings. Our segundo humored them in 
various ways, and after a week on the trail, water 
getting plentiful, using two guards, we only herded 
until midnight, turning the herd loose from then 
until daybreak. It usually took us less than an hour 
to gather and count them in the morning, and en 
couraged by their contentment, a few days later, we 
loose-herded until darkness and then turned them 
free. From then on it was a picnic as far as work 
was concerned, and our saddle horses and herd im 
proved every day. 

After crossing the Colorado River, at every avail 
able chance en route we mailed a letter to the buyer, 
notifying him of our progress as we swept north 
ward. When within a day's drive of the Brazos, we 
mailed our last letter, giving notice that we would 
deliver within three days of date. On reaching 
that river, we found it swimming for between 
thirty and forty yards ; but by tying up the pack 



224 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

mules and cutting the herd into four bunches, we 
swam the Brazos with less than an hour's delay. 
Overhauling and transferring the packs to horses, 
throwing away everything but the barest necessities, 
we crossed the lightened commissary, the freed 
mules swimming with the remuda. On the morning 
of the twentieth day out from San Antonio, our 
segundo rode into the fort ahead of the herd. We 
followed at our regular gait, and near the middle 
of the forenoon were met by Deweese and Tut tie, 
who piloted us to a pasture west of the city, where 
an outfit was encamped to receive the herd. They 
numbered fifteen men, and looked at our insignifi 
cant crowd with contempt; but the count which 
followed showed we had not lost a hoof since we 
left the Nueces, although for the last ten nights the 
stock had had the fullest freedom. 

The receiving outfit looked the brands over care 
fully. The splendid grass and water of the past 
two weeks had transformed the famishing herd of 
a month before, and they were received without a 
question. Rounding in our remuda for fresh mounts 
before starting to town, the vaqueros and I did 
some fancy roping in catching out the horses, par 
tially from sheer lightness of heart because we 
were at our journey's end, and partially to show 
this north Texas outfit that we were like the pro 
verbial singed cat better than we looked. Two 
of Tuttle's men rode into town with us that evening 
to lead back our mounts, the outfit having come in 



A TWO YEARS' DROUTH 225 

purposely to receive the horse herd and drive it to 
their ranch in Young County. While riding in, 
they thawed nicely towards us, but kept me busy 
interpreting for them with our Mexicans. Tuttle 
and Deweese rode together in the lead, and on 
nearing town one of the strangers bantered Pas- 
quale to sell him a nice maguey rope which the 
vaquero carried. When I interpreted the other's 
wish to him, Pasquale loosened the lasso and made 
a present of it to Tuttle's man. I had almost as 
good a rope of the same material, which I presented 
to the other lad with us, and the drinks we after 
ward consumed over this slight testimony of the 
amicable relations existing between a northern and 
southern Texas outfit over the delivery and receiv 
ing of a horse herd, showed no evidence of a drouth. 
The following morning I made inquiry for Frank 
Nancrede and the drovers who had driven a trail 
herd of cattle from Las Palomas two seasons before. 
They were all well known about the fort, but were 
absent at the time, having put up two trail herds 
that spring in Uvalde County. Deweese did not 
waste an hour more than was necessary in that town, 
and while waiting for the banks to open, arranged 
for our transportation to San Antonio. We were 
all ready to start back before noon. Fort Worth 
was a frontier town at the time, bustling and alert 
with live-stock interests; but we were anxious to 
get home, and promptly boarded a train for the 
south. After entering the train, our segundo gave 



226 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

each of the vaqueros and myself some spending 
money, the greater portion of which went to the 
" butcher " for fruits. He was an enterprising fel 
low and took a marked interest in our comfort and 
welfare. But on nearing San Antonio after mid 
night, he attempted to sell us our choice of three 
books, between the leaves of one of which he had 
placed a five-dollar bill and in another a ten, and 
offered us our choice for two dollars, and June 
Deweese became suddenly interested. Coming over 
to where we were sitting, he knocked the books on 
the floor, kicked them under a seat, and threatened 
to bend a gun over the butcher's head unless he 
made himself very scarce. Then reminding us that 
" there were tricks in all trades but ours," he kept 
an eye over us until we reached the city. 

We were delayed another day in San Antonio, 
settling with the commission firm and banking the 
money. The next morning we took stage for Oak- 
ville, where we arrived late at night. When a short 
distance out of San Antonio I inquired of our driver 
who would relieve him beyond Pleasanton, and was 
gratified to hear that his name was not Jack Martin. 
Not that I had anything particular against Martin, 
but I had no love for his wife, and had no desire 
to press the acquaintance any further with her or 
her husband. On reaching Oakville, we were within 
forty miles of Las Palomas. We had our saddles 
with us, and early the next morning tried to hire 
horses; but as the stage company domineered the 



A TWO YEARS' DROUTH 227 

village we were unable to hire saddle stock, and 
on appealing to the only livery in town we were 
informed that Bethel & Oxenford had the first 
claim on their conveyances. Accordingly Deweese 
and I visited the offices of the stage company, 
where, to our surprise, we came face to face with 
Jack Oxenford. I do not think he knew us, though 

' O 

we both knew him at a glance. Deweese made 
known his wants, but only asked for a conveyance 
as far as Shepherd's. Yankeelike, Oxenford had to 
know who we were, where we had been, and where 
we were going. Our segundo gave him rather a 
short answer, but finally admitted that we belonged 
at Las Palomas. Then the junior member of the 
mail contractors became arrogant, claiming that the 
only conveyance capable of carrying our party was 
being held for a sheriff with some witnesses. On 
second thought he offered to send us to the ferry 
by two lighter vehicles in consideration of five 
dollars apiece, insolently remarking that we could 
either pay it or walk. I will not repeat Deweese's 
reply, which I silently endorsed. 

With the soil of the Nueces valley once more 
under our feet we felt independent. On returning 
to the vaqueros, we found a stranger among them, 
Bernabe Cruze by name, who was a muy amigo of 
Santiago Ortez, one of our Mexicans. He belonged 
at the Mission, and when he learned of our predica 
ment offered to lend us his horse, as he expected to 
be in town a few days. The offer was gratefully 



228 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

accepted, and within a quarter of an hour Manuel 
Flores had started for Shepherd's with an order to 
the merchant to send in seven horses for us. It 
was less than a two hours' ride to the ferry, and 
with the early start we expected Manuel to return 
before noon. Making ourselves at home in a coffee 
house conducted by a Mexican, Deweese ordered a 
few bottles of wine to celebrate properly our drive 
and to entertain Cruze and our vaqueros. Before 
the horses arrived, those of us who had any money 
left spent it in the cantina, not wishing to carry it 
home, where it would be useless. The result was 
that on the return of Flores with mounts we were 
all about three sheets in the wind, reckless and 
defiant. 

After saddling up, I suggested to June that we 
ride by the stage office and show Mr. Oxenford 
that we were independent of him. The stage stand 
and office were on the outskirts of the scattered 
village, and while we could have avoided it, our 
segundo willingly led the way, and called for the 
junior member of the firm. A hostler came to the 
door and informed us that Mr. Oxenford was not in. 

" Then I '11 just leave my card," said Deweese, 
dismounting. Taking a brown cigarette paper from 
his pocket, he wrote his name on it ; then pulling a 
tack from a notice pasted beside the office door, he 
drew his six-shooter, and with it deftly tacked the 
cigarette paper against the office door jamb. Re 
mounting his horse, and perfectly conscious that 



A TWO YEARS' DROUTH 229 

Oxenford was within hearing, he remarked to the 
hostler : " When your boss returns, please tell him 
that those fellows from Las Palomas will neither 
walk with him nor ride with him. We thought he 
might fret as to how we were to get home, and we 
have just ridden by to tell him that he need feel no 
uneasiness. Since I have never had the pleasure 
of an introduction to him, I 've put my name on 
that cigarette paper. Good-day, sir." 

Arriving at Shepherd's, we rested several hours, 
and on the suggestion of the merchant changed 
horses before starting home. At the ferry we 
learned that there had been no serious loss of cattle 
so far, but that nearly all the stock from the Frio 
and San Miguel had drifted across to the Nueces. 
We also learned that the attendance on San Jacinto 
Day had been extremely light, not a person from 
Las Palomas being present, while the tournament 
for that year had been abandoned. During our 
ride up the river before darkness fell, we passed a 
strange medley of brands, many of which Deweese 
assured me were owned from fifty to a hundred 
miles to the north and west. Hiding leisurely, it was 
nearly midnight when we sighted the ranch and 
found it astir. An extra breeze had been blowing, 
and the vaqueros were starting to their work at the 
wells in order to be on hand the moment the wind 
slackened. Around the two wells at headquarters 
were over a thousand cattle, whose constant moan 
ing reached our ears over a mile from the ranch. 



230 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

Our return was like entering a house of mourn 
ing. Miss Jean barely greeted Deweese and myself, 
while Uncle Lance paced the gallery without mak 
ing a single inquiry as to what had become of 
the horse herd. On the mistress's orders, servants 
set out a cold luncheon, and disappeared, as if in 
the presence of death, without a word of greeting. 
Ever thoughtful, Miss Jean added several little del 
icacies to our plain meal, and, seating herself at 
the table with us, gave us a clear outline of the sit 
uation. In seventy odd miles of the meanderings 
of the river across our range, there was not a pool 
to the mile with water enough for a hundred cattle. 
The wells were gradually becoming weaker, yield 
ing less water every week, while of four new ones 
which were commenced before our departure, two 
were dry and worthless. The vaqueros were then 
skinning on an average forty dead cattle a day, 
fully a half of which were in the Las Palomas 
brand. Sympathetically as a sister could, she ac 
counted for her brother's lack of interest in our 
return by his anxiety and years, and she cautioned 
us to let no evil report reach his ears, as this 
drouth had unnerved him. 

Deweese at once resumed his position on the 
ranch, and the next morning the ranchero held a 
short council with him, authorizing him to spare no 
expense to save the cattle. Deweese returned the 
borrowed horses by Enrique, and sent a letter to 
the merchant at the ferry, directing him to secure 



A TWO YEARS' DROUTH 231 

and send at least twenty men to Las Palomas. The 
first day after our return, we rode the mills and 
the river. Convinced that to sink other wells on 
the mesas would be fruitless, the foreman decided 
to dig a number of shallow ones in the bed of the 
river, in the hope of catching seepage water. Ac 
cordingly the next morning, I was sent with a com 
missary wagon and seven men to the mouth of the 
Ganso, with instructions to begin sinking wells 
about two miles apart. Taking with us such tools 
as we needed, we commenced our first well at the 
confluence of the Ganso with the Nueces, and a 
second one above. From timber along the river 
we cut the necessary temporary curbing, and put 
it in place as the wells were sunk. On the third 
day both wells became so wet as to impede our 
work, and on our foreman riding by, he ordered 
them curbed to the bottom and a tripod set up over 
them on which to rig a rope and pulley. The next 
morning troughs and rigging, with a remuda of 
horses and a watering crew of four strange va- 
queros, arrived. The wells were only about twenty 
feet deep ; but by drawing the water as fast as the 
seepage accumulated, each was capable of watering 
several hundred head of cattle daily. By this time 
Deweese had secured ample help, and started a sec 
ond crew of well diggers opposite the ranch, who 
worked down the river while my crew followed 
some fifteen miles above. By the end of the month 
of May, we had some twenty temporary wells in 



232 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

operation, and these, in addition to what water the 
pools afforded, relieved the situation to some ex 
tent, though the ravages of death by thirst went on 
apace among the weaker cattle. 

With the beginning of June, we were operating 
nearly thirty wells. In some cases two vaqueros 
could hoist all the water that accumulated in three 
wells. We had a string of camps along the river, 
and at every windmill on the mesas men were sta 
tioned night and day. Among the cattle, the death 
rate was increasing all over the range. Frequently 
we took over a hundred skins in a single day, while 
at every camp cords of fallen flint hides were ac 
cumulating. The heat of summer was upon us, 
the wind arose daily, sand storms and dust clouds 
swept across the country, until our once prosper 
ous range looked like a desert, withered and ac 
cursed. Young cows forsook their offspring in the 
hour of their birth. Motherless calves wandered 
about the range, hollow-eyed, their piteous ap 
peals unheeded, until some lurking wolf sucked 
their blood and spread a feast to the vultures, con 
stantly wheeling in great flights overhead. The 
prickly pear, an extremely arid plant, affording 
both food and drink to herds during drouths, had 
turned white, blistered by the torrid sun until it 
had fallen down, lifeless. The chaparral was desti 
tute of foliage, and on the divides and higher 
mesas, had died. The native women stripped their 
jacals of every sacred picture, and hung them on 



A TWO YEARS' DROUTH 233 

the withered trees about their doors, where they 
hourly prayed to their patron saints. In the hum 
blest homes on Las Palomas, candles burned both 
night and day to appease the frowning Deity. 

The white element on the ranch worked almost un 
ceasingly, stirring the Mexicans to the greatest effort. 
The middle of June passed without a drop of rain, 
but on the morning of the twentieth, after work 
ing all night, as Pasquale Arispe and I were draw 
ing water from a well on the border of the encinal 
I felt a breeze spring up, that started the windmill. 
Casting my eyes upward, I noticed that the wind 
had veered to a quarter directly opposite to that 
of the customary coast breeze. Not being able to 
read aright the portent of the change in the wind, I 
had to learn from that native-born son of the soil : 
" Tomas," he cried, riding up excitedly, " in three 
days it will rain ! Listen to me : Pasquale Arispe 
says that in three days the arroyos on the hacienda 
of Don Lancelot will run like a mill-race. See, 
companero, the wind has changed. The breeze is 
from the northwest this morning. Before three 
days it will rain ! Madre de Dios ! " 

The wind from the northwest continued stead 
ily for two days, relieving us from work. On the 
morning of the third day the signs in sky and 
air were plain for falling weather. Cattle, tottering 
with weakness, came into the well, and after drink 
ing, playfully kicked up their heels on leaving. 
Before noon the storm struck us like a cloud-burst. 



234 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

Pasquale and I took refuge under the wagon to 
avoid the hailstones. In spite of the parched ground 
drinking to its contentment, water flooded under 
the wagon, driving us out. But we laughed at the 
violence of the deluge, and after making everything 
secure, saddled our horses and set out for home, 
taking our relay mounts with us. It was fifteen 
miles to the ranch and in the eye of the storm ; but 
the loose horses faced the rain as if they enjoyed 
it, while those under saddle followed the free ones 
as a hound does a scent. "Within two hours after 
leaving the well, we reined in at the gate, and I 
saw Uncle Lance and a number of the boys prome 
nading the gallery. But the old ranchero leisurely 
walked down the pathway to the gate, and amid 
the downpour shouted to us : " Turn those horses 
loose ; this ranch is going to take a month's holi 
day." 



CHAPTER XV 
IN COMMEMORATION 

A HEAVY rainfall continued the greater portion of 
two days. None of us ventured away from the house 
until the weather settled, and meantime I played the 
fiddle almost continuously. Night work and coarse 
living in camps had prepared us to enjoy the com 
forts of a house, as well as to do justice to the well- 
laden table. Miss Jean prided herself, on special 
occasions and when the ranch had company, on good 
dinners ; but in commemoration of the breaking of 
this drouth, with none but us boys to share it, she 
spread a continual feast. The Mexican contingent 
were not forgotten by master or mistress, and the 
ranch supplies in the warehouse were drawn upon, 
delicacies as well as staples, not only for thejacals 
about headquarters but also for the outlying ran- 
chitas. The native element had worked faithfully 
during the two years in which no rain to speak 
of had fallen, until the breaking hour, and were 
not forgotten in the hour of deliverance. Even the 
stranger vaqueros were compelled to share the hos 
pitality of Las Palomas like invited guests. 

While the rain continued falling, Uncle Lance 
paced the gallery almost night and day. Fearful 



236 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

lest the downpour might stop, he stood guard, not 
ing every change in the rainfall, barely taking time 
to eat or catch an hour's sleep. But when the grate 
ful rain had continued until the evening of the sec 
ond day, assuring a bountiful supply of water all 
over our range, he joined us at supper, exultant as 
a youth of twenty. " Boys," said he, " this has been 
a grand rain. If our tanks hold, we will be inde 
pendent for the next eighteen months, and if not 
another drop falls, the river ought to flow for a 
year. I have seen worse drouths since I lived here, 
but what hurt us now was the amount of cattle and 
the heavy drift which flooded down on us from up 
the river and north on the Frio. The loss is no 
thing ; we won't notice it in another year. I have 
kept a close tally of the hides taken, and our brand 
will be short about two thousand, or less than ten 
per cent of our total numbers. They were princi 
pally old cows and will not be missed. The calf 
crop this fall will be short, but taking it up one 
side and down the other, we got off lucky." 

The third day after the rain began the sun rose 
bright and clear. Not a hoof of cattle or horses 
was in sight, and though it was midsummer, the 
freshness of earth and air was like that of a spring 
morning. Every one felt like riding. While await 
ing the arrival of saddle horses, the extra help hired 
during the drouth was called in and settled with. 
Two brothers, Fidel and Carlos Trujillo, begged 
for permanent employment. They were promising 



IN COMMEMORATION 237 

young fellows, born on the Aransas River, and 
after consulting with Deweese Uncle Lance took 
both into permanent service on the ranch. A room 
in an outbuilding was allotted them, and they were 
instructed to get their meals in the kitchen. The 
remudas had wandered far, but one was finally 
brought in by a vaquero, and by pairs we mounted 
and rode away. On starting, the tanks demanded 
our first attention, and finding all four of them safe, 
we threw out of gear all the windmills. Theodore 
Quayle and I were partners during the day's ride 
to the south, and on coming in at evening fell in 
with Uncle Lance and our segundo, who had been 
as far west as the Ganso. Quayle and I had dis 
cussed during the day the prospect of a hunt at 
the Vaux ranch, and on meeting our employer, 
artfully interested the old ranchero regarding the 
amount of cat sign seen that day along the Arroyo 
Sordo. 

"It's hard luck, boys," said he, "to find our 
selves afoot, and the hunting so promising. But 
we have n't a horse on the ranch that could carry 
a man ten miles in a straightaway dash after the 
hounds. It will be a month yet before the grass 
has substance enough in it to strengthen our remu 
das. Oh, if it had n't been for the condition of 
saddle stock, Don Pierre would have come right 
through the rain yesterday. But when Las Palo- 
mas can't follow the hounds for lack of mounts, you 
can depend on it that other ranches can't either. 



238 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

It just makes me sick to think of this good hunt 
ing, but what can we do for a month but fold our 
hands and sit down ? But if you boys are itching 
for an excuse to get over on the Frio, why, I '11 
make you a good one. This drouth has knocked 
all the sociability out of the country ; but now the 
ordeal is past, Theodore is in honor bound to go 
over to the Vaux ranch. I don't suppose you boys 
have seen the girls on the Frio and San Miguel in 
six months. Time ? That 's about all we have got 
right now. Time ? we 've got time to burn." 

Our feeler had borne fruit. An excuse or per 
mission to go to the Frio was what Quayle and I 
were after, though no doubt the old matchmaker 
was equally anxious to have us go. In expressing 
our thanks for the promised vacation, we included 
several provisos in case there was nothing to 
do, or if we concluded to go when Uncle Lance 
turned in his saddle and gave us a withering look. 
" I 've often wondered," said he, " if the blood in 
you fellows is really red, or if it 's white like a 
fish's. Now, when I was your age, I had to steal 
chances to go to see my girl. But I never gave 
her any show to forget me, and worried her to a 
fare-ye-well. And if my observation and years go 
for anything, that 's just the way girls like to have 
a fellow act. Of course they'll bluff and let on 
they must be wooed and all that, just like Frances 
did at the tournament a year ago. I contend that 
with a clear field the only way to make any pro- 



IN COMMEMORATION 239 

gress in sparking a girl, is to get one arm around 
her waist, and with the other hand keep her from 
scratching you. That 's the very way they like to 
be courted." 

Theodore and I dropped behind after this lec 
ture, and before we reached the ranch had agreed 
to ride over to the Frio the next morning. During 
our absence that day, there had arrived at Las 
Palomas from the Mission, a padrino in the per 
son of Don Alejandro Travino. Juana Leal, only 
daughter of Tiburcio, had been sought in mar 
riage by a nephew of Don Alejandro, and the lat 
ter, dignified as a Castilian noble, was then at the 
house negotiating for the girl's hand. Juana was 
nearly eighteen, had been born at the ranch, and 
after reaching years of usefulness had been adopted 
into Miss Jean's household. To ask for her hand 
required audacity, for to master and mistress of 
Las Palomas it was like asking for a daughter of 
the house. Miss Jean was agitated and all in a 
flutter ; Tiburcio and his wife were struck dumb ; 
for Juana was the baby and only unmarried one of 
their children, and to take her from Las Palomas 
they could never consent to that. But Uncle 
Lance had gone through such experiences before, 
and met the emergency with promptness. 

"That's all right, little sister," said the old 
matchmaker to Miss Jean, who had come out to the 
gate where we were unsaddling. " Don't you borrow 
any trouble in this matter leave things to me. 



240 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

I Ve handled trifles like this among these natives 
for nearly forty years now, and I don't see any 
occasion to try and make out a funeral right after 
the drouth 's been broken by a fine rain. Shucks, 
girl, this is a time for rejoicing ! You go back in the 
house and entertain Don Alejandro with your best 
smiles till I come in. I want to have a talk with 
Tiburcio and his wife before I meet the padrino. 
There 's several families of those Travinos over 
around the Mission and I want to locate which tribe 
this oso comes from. Some of them are good peo 
ple and some of them need a rope around their 
necks, and in a case of keeps like getting married, 
it 's always safe to know what 's what and who 's 
who. Now, Sis, go on back in the house and en 
tertain the Don. Come with me, Tom." 

I saw our plans for the morrow vanish into thin 
air. On arriving at the jacal, we were admitted, 
but a gloom like the pall of death seemed to envelop 
the old Mexican couple. When we had taken 
seats around a small table, Tia Inez handed the 
ranchero the formal written request. As it was 
penned in Spanish, it was passed to me to read, and 
after running through it hastily, I read it aloud, 
several times stopping to interpret to Uncle Lance 
certain extravagant phrases. The salutatory was in 
the usual form ; the esteem which each family had 
always entertained for the other was dwelt upon at 
length, and choicer language was never used than 
the padrino penned in asking for the hand of 



IN COMMEMORATION 241 

Dona Juana. This dainty missive was signed by 
the godfather of the swain, Don Alejandro Tra- 
vino, whose rubric riotously ran back and forth 
entirely across the delicately tinted sheet. On the 
conclusion of the reading, Uncle Lance brushed 
the letter aside as of no moment, and, turning 
to the old couple, demanded to know to which 
branch of the Travino family young Don Bias be 
longed. 

The account of Tiburcio and his wife was definite 
and clear. The father of the swain conducted a 
small country store at the Mission, and besides had 
landed and cattle interests. He was a younger bro 
ther of Don Alejandro, who was the owner of a 
large land grant, had cattle in abundance, and was 
a representative man among the Spanish element. 
No better credentials could have been asked. But 
when their patron rallied them as to the cause of 
their gloom, Tia Inez burst into tears, admitting 
the match was satisfactory, but her baby would 
be carried away from Las Palomas and she might 
never see her again. Her two sons who lived at 
the ranch allowed no day to pass without coming 
to see their mother, and the one who lived at a dis 
tant ranchita came at every opportunity. But if her 
little girl was carried away to a distant ranch 
ah ! that made it impossible ! Let Don Lance, 
worthy patron of his people, forbid the match, and 
win the gratitude of an anguished mother. In 
voking the saints to guide her aright, Dona Inez 



242 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

threw herself on the bed in hysterical lamenta 
tion. Realizing it is useless to argue with a woman 
in tears, the old matchmaker suggested to Tiburcio 
that we delay the answer the customary fortnight. 

Promising to do nothing further without consult 
ing them, we withdrew from the jacal. On return 
ing to the house, we found Miss Jean entertaining 
the Don to the best of her ability, and, commanding 
my presence, the old matchmaker advanced to meet 
the padrino, with whom he had a slight acquaint 
ance. Bidding his guest welcome to the ranch, 
he listened to the Don's apology for being such a 
stranger to Las Palomas until a matter of a delicate 
nature had brought him hither. 

Don Alejandro was a distinguished-looking man, 
and spoke his native tongue in a manner which put 
my efforts as an interpreter to shame. The con 
versation was allowed to drift at will, from the 
damages of the recent drouth to the prospect of a 
market for beeves that fall, until supper was an 
nounced. After the evening repast was over we 
retired to the gallery, and Uncle Lance reopened 
the matchmaking by inquiring of Don Alejandro 
if his nephew proposed taking his bride to the Mis 
sion. The Don was all attention. Fortunately, an 
ticipating that the question might arise, he had 
discussed that very feature with his nephew. At 
present the young man was assisting his father at 
the Mission, and in time, no doubt, would succeed 
to the business. However, realizing that her living 



IN COMMEMORATION 243 

fifty miles distant might be an objection to the girl's 
parents, he was not for insisting on that point, as 
no doubt Las Palomas offered equally good advan 
tages for business. He simply mentioned this by 
way of suggestion, and invited the opinion of his 
host. 

" Well, now, Don Alejandro," said the old match 
maker, in flutelike tones, " we are a very simple 
people here at Las Palomas. Breeding a few horses 
and mules for home purposes, and the rearing of 
cattle has been our occupation. As to merchan 
dising here at the ranch, I could not countenance 
it, as I refused that privilege to the stage company 
when they offered to run past Las Palomas. At 
present our few wants are supplied by a merchant 
at Shepherd's Ferry. True, it 's thirty miles, but I 
sometimes wish it was farther, as it is quite a temp 
tation to my boys to ride down there on various 
pretexts. We send down every week for our mail 
and such little necessities as the ranch may need. 
If there was a store here, it would attract loafers 
and destroy the peace and contentment which we 
now enjoy. I would object to it ; ' one man to his 
trade and another to his merchandise.' ' 

The padrino, with good diplomacy, heartily agreed 
that a store was a disturbing feature on a ranch, and 
instantly went off on a tangent on the splendid busi 
ness possibilities of the Mission. The matchmaker 
in return agreed as heartily with him, and grew remi 
niscent. " In the spring of '51," said he, " I made 



244 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

the match between Tiburcio and Dona Inez, father 
and mother of Juana. Tiburcio was a vaquero of 
mine at the time, Inez being a Mission girl, and I 
have taken a great interest in the couple ever since. 
All their children were born here and still live on 
the ranch. Understand, Don Alejandro, I have no 
personal feeling in the matter, beyond the wishes 
of the parents of the girl. My sister has taken a 
great interest in Juana, having had the girl under 
her charge for the past eight years. Of course, I 
feel a pride in Juana, and she is a fine girl. If 
your nephew wins her, I shall tell the lucky rascal 
when he comes to claim her that he has won the 
pride of Las Palomas. I take it, Don Alejandro, 
that your visit and request was rather unexpected 
here, though I am aware that Juana has visited 
among cousins at the Mission several times the past 
few years. But that she had lost her heart to some 
of your gallants comes as a surprise to me, and 
from what I learn, to her parents also. Under thf* 
circumstances, if I were you, I would not urge an 
immediate reply, but give them the customary period 
to think it over. Our vaqueros will not be very 
busy for some time to come, and it will not incon 
venience us to send a reply by messenger to the 
Mission. And tell Don Bias, even should the reply 
be unfavorable, not to be discouraged. Women, 
you know, are peculiar. Ah, Don Alejandro, when 
you and I were young and went courting, would we 
have been discouraged by a first refusal ? " 



IN COMMEMORATION 245 

Senor Travino appreciated the compliment, and, 
with a genial smile, slapped his host on the back, 
while the old matchmaker gave vent to a vociferous 
guffaw. The conversation thereafter took several 
tacks, but always reverted to the proposed match. 
As the hour grew late, the host apologized to his 
guest, as no doubt he was tired by his long ride, 
and offered to show him his room. The padrino 
denied all weariness, maintaining that the enjoya 
ble evening had rested him, but reluctantly allowed 
himself to be shown to his apartment. No sooner 
were the good-nights spoken, than the old ranchero 
returned, and, snapping his fingers for attention, 
motioned me to follow. By a circuitous route we 
reached ihejacal of Tiburcio. The old couple had 
not yet retired, and Juana blushingly admitted us. 
Uncle Lance jollied the old people like a robust, 
healthy son amusing his elders. We took seats as 
before around the small table, and Uncle Lance 
scattered the gloom of the jacal with his gayety. 

" Las Palomas forever ! " said he, striking the 
table with his bony fist. " This padrino from the 
Mission is a very fine gentleman but a poor match 
maker. Just because young Don Bias is the son of 
a Travino, the keeper of a picayune tienda at the 
Mission, was that any reason to presume for the 
hand of a daughter of Las Palomas ? Was he any 
better than a vaquero just because he doled out 
frijoles by the quart, and never saw a piece of money 
larger than a media real ? Why, a Las Palomas 



246 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

vaquero was a prince compared to a fawning attend 
ant in a Mission store. Let Tia Inez stop fretting 
herself about losing Juana it would not be yet 
awhile. Just leave matters to him, and he 'd send 
Don Alejandro home, pleased with his visit and 
hopeful over the match, even if it never took place. 
And none of those frowns from the young lady ! " 

As we all arose at parting, the old matchmaker 
went over to Juana and, shaking his finger at her, 
said : " Now, look here, my little girl, your mis 
tress, your parents, and myself are all interested 
in you, and don't think we won't act for your best 
interests. You 've seen this young fellow ride by on 
a horse several times, have n't you ? Danced with 
him a few times under the eyes of a chaperon at 
the last fiesta, have n't you ? And that 's all you 
care to know, and are ready to marry him. Well, 
well, it 's fortunate that the marriage customs of 
the Mexicans protect such innocents as you. Now, 
if young Don Bias had worked under me for a year 
as a vaquero, I might be as ready to the match as 
you are ; for then I 'd know whether he was worthy 
of you. What does a girl of your age know about 
a man ? But when you have as many gray hairs in 
your head as your mother has, you '11 thank me for 
cautioning every one to proceed slowly in this match. 
Now dry those tears and go to your mother." 

The next morning Don Alejandro proposed re 
turning to the Mission. But the old ranchero 
hooted the idea, and informed his guest that he 



IN COMMEMORATION 247 

had ordered the ambulance, as he intended show 
ing him the recent improvements made on Las 
Palomas. When the guest protested against a 
longer absence from home, the host artfully inti 
mated that by remaining another day a favorable 
reply might possibly go with him. Don Alejandro 
finally consented. I was pressed in as driver and 
interpreter, and our team tore away from the ranch 
with a flourish. To put it mildly, I was disgusted 
at having my plans for the day knocked in the 
head, yet knew better than protest. As we drove 
along, myriads of grass -blades were peeping up 
since the rain, giving every view a greenish cast. 
Nearly every windmill on the ranch on our circuit 
was pointed out, and we passed three of our four, 
tanks, one of which was over half a mile in length. 
After stopping at an outlying ranchita for refresh 
ment, we spent the afternoon in a similar manner. 
From a swell of the prairie some ten miles to the 
westward of the ranch, we could distinctly see an 
outline of the Ganso. Halting the ambulance, the 
old ranchero pointed out to his guest the mean- 
derings of that creek from its confluence with the 
parent stream until it became lost in the hills to 
the southward. 

" That tract of ground," said he, " is my last 
landed addition to Las Palomas. It lies north and 
south, giving me six miles' frontage on the Nueces. 
and extending north of the river about four miles, 
Don Alejandro, when I note the great change 



248 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

which has come over this valley since I settled 
here, it convinces me that if one wishes to follow 
ranching he had better acquire title to what range 
he needs. Land has advanced in price from a few 
cents an acre to four bits, and now they say the 
next generation will see it worth a dollar. This 
Ganso grant contains a hundred and fourteen sec 
tions, and I have my eye on one or two other ad 
joining tracts. My generation will not need it, but 
the one who succeeds me may. Now, as we drive 
home, I '11 try to show you the northern boundary of 
our range ; it 's fairly well outlined by the divide 
between the Nueces and the Frio rivers/' 

From the conversation which followed until we 
reached headquarters, I readily understood that the 
old matchmaker was showing the rose and conceal 
ing its thorn. His motive was not always clear 
to me, for one would have supposed from his al 
most boastful claims regarding its extent and car 
rying capacity for cattle, he was showing the ranch 
to a prospective buyer. But as we neared home, the 
conversation innocently drifted to the Mexican ele 
ment and their love for the land to which they were 
born. Then I understood why I was driving four 
mules instead of basking in the smiles of my own 
sweetheart on the San Miguel. Nor did this boast 
ing cease during the evening, but alternated from 
lands and cattle to the native people, and finally cen 
tred about a Mexican girl who had been so fortunate 
as to have been born to the soil of Las Palomas. 



IN COMMEMORATION 249 

"When Don Alejandro asked for his horse the 
following morning on leaving, Uncle Lance, Quayle, 
and myself formed a guard of honor to escort our 
guest a distance on his way. He took leave of the 
mistress of Las Palomas in an obeisance worthy 
of an old-time cavalier. Once we were off, Uncle 
Lance pretended to have had a final interview 
with the parents, in which they had insisted on the 
customary time in which to consider the proposal. 
The padrino graciously accepted the situation, 
thanking his host for his interest in behalf of his 
nephew. On reaching the river, where our ways 
separated, all halted for a few minutes at parting. 

" Well, Don Alejandro," said the old ranchero, 
" this is my limit of escort to guests of the ranch. 
Now, the only hope I have in parting is, in case 
the reply should be unfavorable, that Don Bias 
will not be discouraged and that we may see you 
again at Las Palomas. Tender my congratulations 
to your nephew, and tell him that a welcome always 
awaits him in case he finds time and inclination 
to visit us. I take some little interest in matches. 
These boys of mine are going north to the Frio on a 
courting errand to-day. But our marriage customs 
are inferior to yours, and our young people, left to 
themselves, don't seem to marry. Don Alejandro, 
if you and I had the making of the matches, there 'd 
be a cradle rocking in every jacal." Both smiled, 
said' their " Adios, amigos," and he was gone. 

As our guest cantered away, down the river road, 



250 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

Quayle and I began looking for a ford. The river 
had been on a rampage, and while we were seeking 
out a crossing our employer had time for a few 
comments. " The Don's tickled with his prospects. 
He thinks he 's got a half inch rope on Juana right 
now ; but if I thought your prospects were no bet 
ter than I know his are, you wouldn't tire any 
horseflesh of mine by riding to the Frio and the 
San Miguel. But go right on, and stay as long as 
you want to, for I 'm in no hurry to see your faces 
again. Tom, with the ice broken as it is, as soon 
as Esther can remove her disabilities well, you 
won't have to run off the next time. And Theo 
dore, remember what I told you the other day 
about sparking a girl. You 're too timid and back 
ward for a young fellow. I don't care if you come 
home with one eye scratched out, just so you and 
Frances have come to an understanding and named 
the day." 



CHAPTER XVI 
MATCHMAKING 

AFTER our return to the Frio, my first duty was 
writing, relative to the proposed match, an unfavor 
able reply to Don Alejandro Travino. 

On resuming work, we spent six weeks baling 
hides, thus occupying our time until the beginning 
of the branding season. A general round-up of the 
Nueces valley, commencing on the coast at Corpus 
Christi Bay, had been agreed upon among the cow 
men of the country. In pursuance of the plan four 
well-mounted men were sent from our ranch with 
Wilson's wagon to the coast, our segundo following 
a week later with the wagon, remuda and twelve 
men, to meet the rodeo at San Patricio as they 
worked up the river. Our cattle had drifted in 
every direction during the drouth and though many 
of them had returned since the range had again 
become good, they were still widely scattered. So 
Uncle Lance took the rest of us and started for 
the Frio, working down that river and along the 
Nueces, until we met the round-up coming up from 
below. During this cow hunt, I carried my fiddle 
with me in the wagon, and at nearly every ranch we 
passed we stopped and had a dance. Not over once 



252 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

a week did we send in cattle to the ranch to brand, 
and on meeting the rodeo from below, Deweese 
had over three thousand of our cattle. After taking 
these in and branding the calves, we worked over 
our home range until near the holidays. 

On our return to the ranch, we learned that 
young Bias Travino from the Mission had passed 
Las Palomas some days before. He had stopped in 
passing ; but, finding the ranchero absent, plead a 
matter of business at Santa Maria, promising to 
call on his return. He was then at the ranch on the 
Tarancalous, and hourly expecting his reappear 
ance, the women of the household were in an agi 
tated state of mind. Since the formal answer had 
been sent, no word had come from Don Bias and a 
rival had meanwhile sprung up in the person of 
Fidel Trujillo. Within a month after his employ 
ment I noticed the new vaquero casting shy glances 
at Juana, but until the cow hunt on the Frio I did 
not recognize the fine handwriting of the old match 
maker. Though my services were never called for 
as interpreter between Uncle Lance and the new 
man, any one could see there was an understanding 
between them. That the old ranchero was push 
ing Fidel forward was evident during the fall cow 
hunting by his sending that Mexican into Las Palo 
mas with every bunch of cattle gathered. 

That evening Don Bias rode into the ranch, ac 
companied by Father Norquin. The priest belonged 
at the Mission, and their meeting at Santa Maria 



MATCHMAKING 253 

might, of course, have been accidental. None of the 
padre's parishioners at headquarters were expecting 
him, however, for several months, and padres are 
able padrinos, sometimes, among their own faith, 
even despotic. Taking account, as it appeared, of 
the ulterior motive, Uncle Lance welcomed the arri 
vals with a hearty hospitality, which to a stran 
ger seemed so genuine as to dispel any suspicion. 
Not in many a day had a visitor at Las Palomas 
received more courteous consideration than did 
Father Norquin. The choicest mint which grew in 
the in closures about the wells was none too good 
for the juleps which were concocted by Miss Jean. 
Had the master and mistress of the ranch been 
communicants of his church, the rosy-cheeked padre 
could have received no more marked attention. 

The conversation touched lightly on various top 
ics, until Santa Maria ranch was mentioned, when 
Uncle Lance asked the padre if Don Mateo had 
yet built him a chapel. The priest shrugged his 
shoulders deprecatingly and answered the question 
with another, when Las Palomas proposed build 
ing a place of worship. 

" Well, Father, I 'm glad you 've brought the 
matter up again," replied the host. " That I should 
have lived here over forty years and never done 
anything for your church or my people who belong 
to your faith, is certainly saying little in my be 
half. I never had the matter brought home to me 
so clearly as during last summer's drouth. Do 



254 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

you remember that old maxim regarding when the 
devil was sick ? Well, I was good and sick. If you 
had happened in then and had asked for a chapel, 
not that I have any confidence in your teach 
ing, you could have got a church with a steeple 
on it. I was in such sore straits that the women 
were kept busy making candles, and we burnt them 
in every jacal until the hour of deliverance." 

Helping himself from the proffered snuffbox of 
the padre, the host turned to his guest, and in all 
sincerity continued : " Yes, Father, I ought to build 
you a nice place of worship. We could quarry the 
rock during idle time, and burn our own lime right 
here on the ranch. While you are here, give me 
some plans, and we '11 show you that the white ele 
ment of Las Palomas are not such hopeless heretics 
as you suppose. Now, if we build the chapel, I 'm 
just going to ask one favor in return : I expect to 
die and be buried on this ranch. You 're a younger 
man by twenty years and will outlive me, and on 
the day of my burial I want you to lay aside your 
creed and preach my funeral in this little chapel 
which you and I are going to build. I have been a 
witness to the self-sacrifice of you and other priests 
ever since I lived here. Father, I like an honest 
man, and the earnestness of your cloth for the bet 
terment of my people no one can question. And 
my covenant is, that you are to preach a simple 
sermon, merely commemorating the fact that here 
lived a man named Lovelace, who died and would 



MATCHMAKING 255 

be seen among his fellow men no more. These being 
facts, you can mention them ; but beyond that, for 
fear our faiths might differ, the less said the better. 
Won't you have another mint julep before supper ? 
No ? You will, won't you, Don Bias ? " 

That the old ranchero was in earnest about build 
ing a chapel on Las Palomas there was no doubt. 
In fact, the credit should be given to Miss Jean, 
for she had been urging the matter ever since my 
coming to the ranch. At headquarters and outlying 
ranchitas on the land, there were nearly twenty 
families, or over a hundred persons of all ages. 
But that the old matchmaker was going to make 
the most out of his opportunity by erecting the 
building at an opportune time, there was not the 
shadow of a question. 

The evening passed without mention of the real 
errand of our guests. The conversation was allowed 
to wander at will, during which several times it 
drifted into gentle repartee between host and padre, 
both artfully avoiding the rock of matchmaking. 
But the next morning, as if anxious to begin the 
day's work early, Father Norquin, on arising, in 
quired for his host, strutted out to the corrals, 
and, on meeting him, promptly inquired why, dur 
ing the previous summer, Don Alejandro Travi- 
no's mission to obtain the hand of Juana Leal had 
failed. 

"That's so," assented Uncle Lance, very affa 
bly, " Don Alejandro was here as godfather to his 



256 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

nephew. And this young man with you is Don 
Bias, the bear ? Well, why did we waste so much 
time last night talking about chapels and death 
when we might have made a match in less time ? 
You priests have everything in your favor aspadri- 
nos, but you are so slow that a rival might appear 
and win the girl while you were drumming up your 
courage. I don't write Spanish myself, but I have 
boys here on the ranch who do. One of them, if I 
remember rightly, wrote the answer at the request 
of Juana's mother. If my memory has n't failed me 
entirely, the parents objected to being separated 
from their only daughter. You know how that is 
among your people ; and I never like to interfere 
in family matters. But from what I hear Don Bias 
has a rival now. Yes; young Travino failed to 
press his suit, and a girl will stand for nearly any 
thing but neglect. But that 's one thing they won't 
stand for, not when there 's a handsome fellow at 
hand to play the bear. Then the old lover is easily 
forgotten for the new. Eh, Father ? " 

" Ah, Don Lance, I know your reputation as a 
matchmaker," replied Father Norquin, in a rich 
French accent. " Report says had you not had a 
hand in it the match would have been successful. 
The supposition is that it only lacked your approval. 
The daughter of a vaquero refusing a Travino? 
Tut, tut, man ! " 

A hearty guffaw greeted these aspersions. " And 
so you Ve heard I was a matchmaker, have you ? 



MATCHMAKING 257 

Of course, you believed it just like any other old 
granny. Now, of course, when I 'm asked by any 
of my people to act as padrino, I never refuse any 
more than you do. I 've made many a match and 
hope to be spared to make several more. But come ; 
they 're calling us to breakfast, and after that we '11 
take a walk over to the ranch burying ground. It 's 
less than a half mile in that point of encinal 
yonder. I want to show you what I think would be 
a nice spot for our chapel.'* 

The conversation during breakfast was artfully 
directed by the host to avoid the dangerous shoals, 
though the padre constantly kept an eye on Juana 
as she passed back and forth. As we arose from 
the table and were passing to the gallery, Uncle 
Lance nudged the priest, and, poking Don Bias in 
the ribs, said : " Is n't Juana a stunning fine cook ? 
Got up that breakfast herself. There isn't an 
eighteen-year-old girl in Texas who can make as 
fine biscuits as she does. But Las Palomas raises 
just as fine girls as she does horses and cattle. The 
rascal who gets her for a wife can thank his lucky 
stars. Don Bias, you ought to have me for apadrino. 
Your uncle and the padre here are too poky. Why, 
if I was making a match for as fine a girl as Juana 
is, I 'd set the river afire before I 'd let an unfavor 
able answer discourage me. Now, the padre and I 
are going for a short walk, and we '11 leave you here 
at the house to work out your own salvation. Don't 
pay any attention to the mistress, and I want to tell 



258 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

you right now, if you expect to win Juana, never 
depend on old fogy padrinos like your uncle and 
Father Norquin. Do a little hustling for your 
self." 

The old ranchero and the priest were gone nearly 
an hour, and on their return looked at another site 
in the rear of the Mexican quarters. It was a pretty 
knoll, and as the two joined us where we were re 
pairing a windmill at the corrals, Father Norquin, 
in an ecstasy of delight, said : " Well, my children, 
the chapel is assured at Las Palomas. Don Lance 
wanted to build it over in the encinal, with twice 
as nice a site right here in the rancho. We may 
need the building for a school some day, and if we 
should, we don't want it a mile away. The very 
idea ! And the master tells me that a chapel has 
been the wish of his sister for years. Poor woman 
to have such a brother. I must hasten to the 
house and thank her." 

No sooner had the padre started than I was 
called aside by my employer. "Tom," said he, 
" you slip around to Tia Inez's jacal and tell her 
that I 'm going to send Father Norquin over to see 
her. Tell her to stand firm on not letting Juana 
leave the ranch for the Mission. Tell her that I Ve 
promised the padre a chapel for Las Palomas, and 
rather than miss it, the priest would consign the 
whole Travino family to endless perdition. Tell her 
to laugh at his scoldings and inform him that Juana 
can get a husband without going so far. And that 



MATCHMAKING 259 

you heard me say that I was going to give Fidel, 
the day he married her daughter, the same number 
of heifers that all her brothers got. Impress it on 
Tia Inez's mind that it means something to be born 
to Las Palomas." 

I set out on my errand and he hastened away to 
overtake the padre before the latter reached the 
house. Tia Inez welcomed me, no doubt anticipat 
ing that I was the bearer of some message. When 
I gave her the message her eyes beamed with grati 
tude and she devoutly crossed her breast invoking 
the blessing of the saints upon the master. I added 
a few words of encouragement of my own that I 
understood that when we quarried the rock for the 
chapel, there was to be enough extra cut to build a 
stone cottage for Juana and Fidel. This was pure 
invention on my part, but I felt a very friendly in 
terest in Las Palomas, for I expected to bring my 
bride to it as soon as possible. Therefore, if I could 
help the present match forward by the use of a lit 
tle fiction, why not? 

Father Norquin's time was limited at Las Pa 
lomas, as he was under appointment to return to 
Santa Maria that evening. Therefore it became an 
active morning about the ranch. Long before we 
had finished the repairs on the windmill, a mozo 
from the house came out to the corrals to say I was 
wanted by the master. Returning with the servant, 
I found Uncle Lance and the mistress of the ranch 
entertaining their company before a cheerful fire 



260 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

in the sitting-room. On my entrance, my employer 
said : 

" Tom, I Lave sent for you because I want you 
to go over with the padre to the jacal of Juana's 
parents. Father Norquin here is such an old granny 
that he believes I interfered, or the reply of last 
summer would have been favorable. Now, Tom, 
you 're not to open your mouth one way or the other. 
The padre will state his errand, and the old couple 
will answer him in your presence. Don Bias will 
remain here, and whatever the answer is, he and I 
must abide by it. Really, as I have said, I have no 
interest in the match, except the welfare of the girl. 
Go on now, Father, and let 's see what you can do 
as a padrino." 

As we arose to go, Miss Jean interposed and sug 
gested that, out of deference to Father Norquin, 
the old couple be sent for, but her brother objected. 
He wanted the parents to make their own answer 
beneath their own roof, unembarrassed by any in 
fluence. As we left the room, the old matchmaker 
accompanied us as far as the gate, where he halted 
and said to the padre : 

" Father Norquin, in a case like the present, you 
will not mind my saying that your wish is not ab 
solute, and I am sending a witness with you to see 
that you issue no peremptory orders on this ranch. 
And remember, that this old couple have been over 
thirty years in my employ, and temper your words 
to them as you would to your own parents, were 



MATCHMAKING 261 

they living. Juana was born here, which means a 
great deal, and with the approval of her parents, 
she '11 marry the man of her choice, and nopadrino, 
let him be priest or layman, can crack his whip on 
the soil of Las Palomas to the contrary. As my 
guest, you must excuse me for talking so plain, but 
my people are as dear to me as your church is to 
you." 

As my employer turned and leisurely walked back 
to the house, Father Norquin stood stock-still. I 
was slightly embarrassed myself, but it was easily 
to be seen that the padre's plans had received a 
severe shock. 1 made several starts toward the 
Mexican quarters before the priest shook away his 
hesitations and joined me. That the old ranchero's 
words had agitated him was very evident in his 
voice and manner. Several times he stopped me 
and demanded explanations, finally raising the ques 
tion of a rival. I told him all I knew about the 
matter ; that Fidel, a new vaquero on the ranch, had 
found favor in Juana's eyes, that he was a favor 
ite man with master and mistress, but what view 
the girl's parents took of the matter I was unable 
to say. This cleared up the situation wonderfully, 
and the padre brightened as we neared ihejacal. 

Tiburcio was absent, and while awaiting his re 
turn, the priest became amiable and delivered a 
number of messages from friends and relatives at 
the Mission. Tia Inez was somewhat embarrassed 
at first, but gradually grew composed, and before 



262 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

the return of her husband all three of us were chat 
ting like cronies. On the appearance of Tio Tibur- 
cio, coffee was ordered and the padre told several 
good stories, over which we all laughed heartily. 
Cigarettes were next, and in due time Father Nor- 
quin very good naturedly inquired why an unfavor 
able answer, regarding the marriage of their daugh 
ter with young Bias Travino, had been returned 
the previous summer. The old couple looked at 
each other a moment, when the husband turned in 
his chair, and with a shrug of his shoulders and a 
jerk of his head, referred the priest to his wife. 
Tia Inez met the padre's gaze, and in a clear, con 
cise manner, and in her native tongue, gave her rea 
sons. Father Norquin explained the prominence of 
the Travino family and their disappointment over 
the refusal, and asked if the decision was final, to 
which he received an affirmative reply. Instead of 
showing any displeasure, he rose to take his de 
parture, turning in the doorway to say to the old 
couple : 

" My children, peace and happiness in this life 
is a priceless blessing. I should be untrue to my 
trust did I counsel a marriage that would give a 
parent a moment of unhappiness. My blessing 
upon this house and its dwellers, and upon its sons 
and daughters as they go forth to homes of their 
own." While he lifted his hand in benediction, the 
old couple and myself bowed our heads for a mo 
ment, after which the padre and I passed outside. 



MATCHMAKING 263 

I was as solemn as an owl, yet inwardly delighted 
at the turn of affairs. But Father Norquin had no 
thing to conceal, while delight was wreathed all 
over his rosy countenance. Again and again he 
stopped me to make inquiries about Fidel, the new 
vaquero. That lucky rascal was a good-looking na 
tive, a much larger youth than the aspiring Don 
Bias, and I pictured him to the padre as an Adonis. 
To the question if he was in the ranch at present, 
fortune favored me, as Fidel and nearly all the 
regular vaqueros were cutting timbers in the enci- 
nal that day with which to build new corrals at one 
of the outlying tanks. As he would not return be 
fore dark, and I knew the padre was due at Santa 
Maria that evening, my description of him made 
Don Bias a mere pigmy in comparison. But we 
finally reached the house, and on our reentering the 
sitting-room, young Travino very courteously arose 
and stood until Father Norquin should be seated. 
But the latter faced his parishioner, saying : 

"You young simpleton, what did you drag me 
up here for on a fool's errand ? I was led to believe 
that our generous host was the instigator of the 
unfavorable answer to your uncle's negotiations 
last summer. Now I have the same answer repeated 
from the lips of the girl's parents. Consider the 
predicament in which you have placed a servant of 
the Church. Every law of hospitality has been out 
raged through your imbecility. And to complete 
my humiliation, I have received only kindness on 



264 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

every hand. The chapel which I have desired for 
years is now a certainty, thanks to the master and 
mistress of Las Palomas. What apology can I offer 
for your " 

"Hold on there, Father," interrupted Uncle 
Lance. " If you owe this ranch any apology, save 
your breath for a more important occasion. Don 
Bias is all right ; any suitor who would not be jeal 
ous over a girl like Juana is not welcome at Las 
Palomas. Why, when I was his age I was suspi 
cious of my sweetheart's own father, and you should 
make allowance for this young man's years and im 
petuosity. Sit down, Father, and let 's have a talk 
about this chapel that 's what interests me most 
right now. You see, within a few days my boys 
will have all the palisades cut for the new corrals, 
and then we can turn our attention to getting out 
the rock for the chapel. We have a quarry of nice 
soft stone all opened up, and I '11 put a dozen 
vaqueros to blocking out the rock in a few days. 
We always have a big stock of zacahuiste grass on 
hand for thatching jacals, plenty of limestone to 
burn for the lime, sand in abundance, and all we 
lack is the masons. You '11 have to send them out 
from the Mission, but I '11 pay them. Oh, I reckon 
the good Lord loves Las Palomas, for you see He 's 
placed everything convenient with which to build 
the chapel." 

Father Norquin could not remain seated, but 
paced the room enumerating the many little adorn- 






MATCHMAKING 265 

ments which the mother church would be glad to 
supply. Enthusiastic as a child over a promised toy, 
no other thought entered the simple padre's mind, 
until dinner was announced. And all during the 
meal, the object of our guest's mission was entirely 
lost sight of, in contemplation of the coming chapel. 
The padre seemed as anxious to avoid the subject 
of matchmaking as his host, while poor Don Bias 
sat like a willing sacrifice, unable to say a word. 
I sympathized with him, for I knew what it was 
to meet disappointment. At the conclusion of the 
mid-day repast, Father Norquin flew into a great 
bustle in preparing to start for Santa Maria, and 
I was dispatched for the horses. Our guests and 
my employer were waiting at the stile when I led 
up their mounts, and at final parting the old match 
maker said to the priest : 

"Now, remember, I expect you to have this 
chapel completed by Easter Sunday, when I want 
you to come out and spend at least two weeks with 
us and see that it is finished to suit you, and arrange 
for the dedication. Las Palomas will build the 
chapel, but when our work is done yours com 
mences. And I want to tell you right now, there 's 
liable to be several weddings in it before the mor 
tar gets good and dry. I have it on pretty good 
authority that one of my boys and Pierre Vaux's 
eldest girl are just about ready to have you pro 
nounce them man and wife. No, he 's not of any 
faith, but she's a good Catholic. Now, look here, 



266 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

Father Norquin, if I have to proselyte you to my 
way of thinking, it '11 never hurt you any. I was 
never afraid to do what was right, and when at 
Las Palomas you needn't be afraid either, even if 
we have to start a new creed. Well, good-by to 
both of you." 

We had a windmill to repair that afternoon, 
some five miles from the ranch, so that I did not 
return to the house until evening; but when all 
gathered around the supper table that night, Uncle 
Lance was throwing bouquets at himself for the 
crafty manner in which he had switched the padre 
from his mission, and yet sent him away delighted. 
He admitted that he was scared on the appearance 
of Father Norquin as a padrino, on account of the 
fact that a priest was usually supreme among his 
own people. That he had early come to the conclu 
sion if there was to be any coercion used in this 
case, he was determined to get in his bluff first. 
But Miss Jean ridiculed the idea that there was 
any serious danger. 

" Goodness me, Lance," said she, " I could have 
told you there was no cause for alarm. In this case 
between Fidel and Juana, I 've been a very lib 
eral chaperon. Oh, well, now, never mind about 
the particulars. Once, to try his nerve, I gave him 
a chance, and I happen to know the rascal kissed 
her the moment my back was turned. Oh, I think 
Juana will stay at Las Palomas." 






CHAPTER XVII 
WINTER AT LAS PALOMAS 

THE winter succeeding the drouth was an unusually 
mild one, frost and sleet being unseen at Las Palo- 
mas. After the holidays several warm rains fell, 
affording fine hunting and assuring enough mois 
ture in the soil to insure an early spring. The pre 
ceding winter had been gloomy, but this proved to 
be the most social one since my advent, for within 
fifty miles of the ranch no less than two wed 
dings occurred during Christmas week. As to little 
neighborhood happenings, we could hear of half a 
dozen every time we went to Shepherd's after the 
mail. 

When the native help on the ranch was started 
at blocking out the stone for the chapel, Uncle 
Lance took the hounds and with two of the boys 
went down to Wilson's ranch for a hunt. Gallup 
went, of course, but just why he took Scales along, 
unless with the design of making a match between 
one of the younger daughters of this neighboring 
ranchman and the Marylander, was not entirely 
clear. When he wanted to, Scales could make him 
self very agreeable, and had it not been for his 
profligate disposition, his being taken along on the 



268 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

hunt would have been no mystery. Every one on 
the ranch, including the master and mistress, were 
cognizant of the fact that for the past year he had 
maintained a correspondence with a girl in Florida 
the one whose letter and photograph had been 
found in the box of oranges. He hardly deserved 
the confidence of the roguish girl, for he showed 
her letters to any one who cared to read them. I 
had read every line of the whole correspondence, 
and it was plain that Scales had deceived the girl 
into believing that he was a prominent ranchman, 
when in reality the best that could be said of him 
was that he was a lovable vagabond. From the last 
letter, it was clear that he had promised to marry 
the girl during the Christmas week just past, but 
he had asked for a postponement on the ground 
that the drouth had prevented him from selling his 
beeves. 

When Uncle Lance made the discovery, during 
a cow hunt the fall before, of the correspondence 
between Scales and the Florida girl, he said to us 
around the camp-fire that night : " Well, all I 've 
got to say is that that girl down in Florida is hard 
up. Why, it 's entirely contrary to a girl's nature 
to want to be wooed by letter. Until the leopard 
changes his spots, the good old way, of putting your 
arm around the girl and whispering that you love 
her, will continue to be popular. If I was to hazard 
an opinion about that girl, Aaron, I 'd say that she 
was ambitious to rise above her surroundings. The 



WINTER AT LAS PALOMAS 269 

chances are that she wants to get away from home, 
and possibly she 's as much displeased with the 
young men in the orange country as I sometimes 
get with you dodrotted cow hands. Now, I 'm not 
one of those people who 're always harping about 
the youth of his day and generation being so much 
better than the present. That 's all humbug. But 
what does get me is, that you youngsters don't 
profit more by the experience of an old man like me 
who's been married three times. Line upon line 
and precept upon precept, I have preached this 
thing to my boys for the last ten years, and what 
has it amounted to ? Not a single white bride has 
ever been brought to Las Palomas. They can call 
me a matchmaker if they want to, but the evidence 
is to the contrary." This was on the night after 
we passed Shepherd's, where Scales had received a 
letter from the Florida girl. But why he should 
accompany the hunt now to Kemirena, unless the 
old ranchero proposed reforming him, was too deep 
a problem for me. 

On leaving for Wilson's, there was the usual 
bustle ; hounds responding to the horn and horses 
under saddle champing their bits. I had hoped 
that permission to go over to the Frio and San 
Miguel would be given John and myself, but my 
employer's mind was too absorbed in something 
else, and we were overlooked in the hurry to get 
away. Since the quarrying of the rock had com 
menced, my work had been overseeing the native 



270 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

help, of which we had some fifteen cutting and 
hauling. In numerous places within a mile of head 
quarters, a soft porous rock cropped out. By using 
a crowbar with a tempered chisel point, the Mexi 
cans easily channeled the rock into blocks, eighteen 
by thirty inches, splitting each stone a foot in 
thickness, so that when hauled to the place of use, 
each piece was ready to lay up in the wall. The 
ranch house at headquarters was built out of this 
rock, and where permanency was required, it was 
the best material available, whitening and appar 
ently becoming firmer with time and exposure. 

I had not seen my sweetheart in nearly a month, 
but there I was, chained to a rock quarry and mule 
teams. The very idea of Gallup and the profligate 
Scales riding to hounds and basking in the society 
of charming girls nettled me. The remainder of 
the ranch outfit was under Deweese, building the 
new corrals, so that I never heard my own tongue 
spoken except at meals and about the house. My 
orders included the cutting of a few hundred rock 
extra above the needs of the chapel, and when this 
got noised among the help, I had to explain that 
there was some talk of building a stone cottage, 
and intimated that it was for Juana and Fidel. 
But that lucky rascal was one of the crew cutting 
rock, and from some source or other he had learned 
that I was liable to need a cottage at Las Palomas 
in the near future. The fact that I was acting 
segundo over the quarrying outfit, was taken ad- 



WINTER AT LAS PALOMAS 271 

vantage of by Fidel to clear his skirts and charge 
the extra rock to my matrimonial expectations. 
He was a fast workman, and on every stone he 
split from the mother ledge, he sang out, " Otro 
piedra por Don Tomas ! " And within a few min 
utes' time some one else would cry out, " Otro cillar 
por Fidel y Juana," or " Otro piedra por padre 
Norquin." 

A week passed and there was no return of the 
hunters. We had so systematized our work at the 
quarry that my presence was hardly needed, so 
every evening I urged Cotton to sound the mis 
tress for permission to visit our sweethearts. John 
was a good-natured fellow who could be easily led 
or pushed forward, and I had come to look upon 
Miss Jean as a ready supporter of any of her 
brother's projects. For that reason her permission 
was as good as the master's ; but she parried all 
Cotton's hints, pleading the neglect of our work in 
the absence of her brother. I was disgusted with 
the monotony of quarry work, and likewise was 
John over building corrals, as no cow hand ever 
enthuses over manual labor, when an incident oc 
curred which afforded the opportunity desired. The 
mistress needed some small article from the store 
at Shepherd's, and a Mexican boy had been sent 
down on this errand and also to get the mail of the 
past two weeks. On the boy's return, he brought 
a message from the merchant, saying that Henry 
Annear had been accidentally killed by a horse that 



272 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

day, and that the burial would take place at ten 
o'clock the next morning. 

The news threw the mistress of Las Palomas 
into a flutter. Her brother was absent, and she 
felt a delicacy in consulting Deweese, and very 
naturally turned to me for advice. Funerals in 
the Nueces valley were so very rare that I advised 
going, even if the unfortunate man had stood none 
too high in our estimation. Annear lived on the 
divide between Shepherd's and the Frio at a ranch 
called Las Norias. As this ranch was not over ten 
miles from the mouth of the San Miguel, the astute 
mind can readily see the gleam of my ax in attend 
ing. Funerals were such events that I knew to a 
certainty that all the countryside within reach would 
attend, and the Vaux ranch was not over fifteen 
miles distant from Las Norias. Acting on my ad 
vice, the mistress ordered the ambulance to be ready 
to start by three o'clock the next morning, and gave 
every one on the ranch who cared, permission to 
go along. All of us took advantage of the offer, 
except Deweese, who, when out of hearing of the 
mistress, excused himself rather profanely. 

The boy had returned late in the day, but we 
lost no time in acting on Miss Jean's orders. For 
tunately the ambulance teams were in hand hauling 
rock, but we rushed out several vaqueros to bring 
in the remuda which contained our best saddle 
horses. It was after dark when they returned with 
the mounts wanted, and warning Tiburcio that we 



WINTER AT LAS PALOMAS 273 

would call him at an early hour, every one retired 
for a few hours' rest. I would resent the charge 
that I am selfish or unsympathetic, yet before fall 
ing asleep that night the deplorable accident was 
entirely overlooked in the anticipated pleasure of 
seeing Esther. 

As it was fully a thirty-five-mile drive we started 
at daybreak, and to encourage the mules Quayle 
and Happersett rode in the lead until sun-up, when 
they dropped to the rear with Cotton and myself. 
We did not go by way of Shepherd's, but crossed 
the river several miles above the ferry, following 
an old cotton road made during the war, from the 
interior of the state to Matamoras, Mexico. It was 
some time before the hour named for the burial 
when we sighted Las Norias on the divide, and 
spurred up the ambulance team, to reach the 
ranch in time for the funeral. The services were 
conducted by a strange minister who happened to 
be visiting in Oakville, but what impressed me in 
particular was the solicitude of Miss Jean for the 
widow. She had been frequently entertained at Las 
Palomas by its mistress, as the sweetheart of June 
Deweese, though since her marriage to Annear a 
decided coolness had existed between the two wo 
men. But in the present hour of trouble, the past 
was forgotten and they mingled their tears like 
sisters. 

On our return, which was to be by way of the 
Vauxes', I joined those from the McLeod ranch, 



274 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

while Happersett and Cotton accompanied the am 
bulance to the Vaux home. Nearly every one going 
our way was on horseback, and when the cavalcade 
was some distance from Las Norias, my sweetheart 
dropped to the rear for a confidential chat and told 
me that a lawyer from Corpus Christi, an old friend 
of the family, had come up for the purpose of tak 
ing the preliminary steps for securing her freedom, 
and that she expected to be relieved of the odious 
tie which bound her to Oxenf ord at the May term of 
court. This was pleasant news to me, for there 
would then be no reason for delaying our mar 
riage. 

Happersett rode down to the San Miguel the 
next morning to inform Quayle and myself that 
the mistress was then on the way to spend the night 
with the widow Annear, and that the rest of us 
were to report at home the following evening. She 
had apparently inspected the lines on the Frio, and, 
finding everything favorable, turned to other fields. 
I was disappointed, for Esther and I had planned 
to go up to the Vaux ranch during the visit. Dan 
suggested that we ride home together by way of 
the Vauxes'. But Quayle bitterly refused even to 
go near the ranch. He felt very sore and revenge 
ful over being jilted by Frances after she had let 
him crown her Queen of the ball at the tournament 
dance. So, agreeing to meet on the divide the next 
day for the ride back to Las Palomas, we parted. 

The next afternoon, on reaching the divide be- 



WINTER AT LAS PALOMAS 275 

tween the Frio and the home river, Theodore and 
I scanned the horizon in vain for any horsemen. 
We dismounted, and after waiting nearly an hour, 
descried two specks to the northward which we 
knew must be our men. On coming up they also 
threw themselves on the ground, and we indulged 
in a cigarette while we compared notes. I had no 
thing to conceal, and frankly confessed that Esther 
and I expected to marry during the latter part of 
May. Cotton, though, seemed reticent, and though 
Theodore cross-questioned him rather severely, was 
non-committal and dumb as an oyster; but be 
fore we recrossed the Nueces that evening, John 
and I having fallen far to the rear of the other 
two, he admitted to me that his wedding would 
occur within a month after Lent. It was to be a 
confidence between us, but I advised him to take 
Uncle Lance into the secret at once. 

But on reaching the ranch we learned that the 
hunting party had not returned, nor had the mis 
tress. The next morning we resumed our work, 
Quayle and Cotton at corral building and I at the 
rock quarry. The work had progressed during my 
absence, and the number of pieces desired was 
nearing completion, and with but one team haul 
ing the work-shop was already congested with cut 
building stone. By noon the quarry was so clut 
tered with blocks that I ordered half the help to 
take axes and go to the encinal to cut dry oak wood 
for burning the lime. With the remainder of my 



276 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

outfit we cleaned out and scaled off the walls of an 
old lime kiln, which had served ever since the first 
rock buildings rose on Las Palomas. The oven was 
cut in the same porous formation, the interior resem 
bling an immense jug, possibly twelve feet in diame 
ter and fifteen feet in height to the surface of the 
ledge. By locating the kiln near the abrupt wall of 
an abandoned quarry, ventilation was given from 
below by a connecting tunnel some twenty feet in 
length. Layers of wood and limestone were placed 
within until the interior was filled, when it was 
fired, and after burning for a few hours the draft 
was cut off below and above, and the heat retained 
until the limestone was properly burned. 

Near the middle of the afternoon, the drivers 
hauling the blocks drove near the kiln and shouted 
that the hunters had returned. Scaling off the burnt 
rock in the interior and removing the debris made 
it late before our job was finished ; then one of the 
vaqueros working on the outside told us that the 
ambulance had crossed the river over an hour be 
fore, and was then in the ranch. This was good 
news, and mounting our horses we galloped into 
headquarters and found the corral outfit already 
there. Miss Jean soon had our segundo an un 
willing prisoner in a corner, and from his impa 
tient manner and her low tones it was plain to be 
seen that her two days' visit with Mrs. Annear 
had resulted in some word for Deweese. Not wish 
ing to intrude, I avoided them in search of my em- 



WINTER AT LAS PALOMAS 277 

ployer, finding him and Gallup at an outhouse 
holding a hound while Scales was taking a few 
stitches in an ugly cut which the dog had received 
from a javeline. Paying no attention to the two 
boys, I gave him the news, and bluntly informed 
him that Esther and I expected to marry in May. 

" Bully for you, Tom,'* said he. " Here, hold 
this fore foot, and look out he don't bite you. So 
she '11 get her divorce at the May term, and then 
all outdoors can't stand in your way the next time. 
Now, that means that you '11 have to get out fully 
two hundred more of those building rock, for your 
cottage will need three rooms. Take another stitch, 
knot your thread well, and be quick about it. I 
tell you the javeline were pretty fierce ; this is the 
fifth dog we 've doctored since we returned." 

On freeing the poor hound, we both looked the 
pack over carefully, and as no others needed atten 
tion, Aaron and Glenn were excused. No sooner 
were they out of hearing than I suggested that the 
order be made for five hundred stone, as no doubt 
John Cotton would also need a cottage shortly after 
Lent. The old matchmaker beamed with smiles. 
" Is that right, Tom ? " he inquired. " Of course, 
you boys tell each other what you would hardly tell 
me. And so they have made the riffle at last ? Why, 
of course they shall have a cottage, and have it so 
near that I can hear the baby when it cries. Bully 
for tow-headed John. Oh, I reckon Las Palomas is 
coming to the front this year. Three new cottages 



278 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

and three new brides is not to be sneezed at ! Doee 
your mistress know all this good news ? " 

I informed him that I had not seen Miss Jean to 
speak to since the funeral, and that Cotton wished 
his intentions kept a secret. " Of course," he said ; 
" that 's just like a sap-headed youth, as if getting 
married was anything to be ashamed of. Why, 
when I was the age of you boys I 'd have felt proud 
over the fact. Wants it kept a secret, does he ? 
Well, I '11 tell everybody I meet, and I '11 send word 
to the ferry and to every ranch within a hundred 
miles, that our John Cotton and Frank Vaux are 
going to get married in the spring. There 's no 
thing disgraceful in matrimony, and I'll publish 
this so wide that neither of them will dare back 
out. I 've had my eye on that girl for years, and 
now when there 's a prospect of her becoming the 
wife of one of my boys, he wants it kept a secret? 
Well, I don't think it '11 keep." 

After that I felt more comfortable over my own 
confession. Before we were called to supper every 
one in the house, including the Mexicans about 
headquarters, knew that Cotton and I were soon 
to be married. And all during the evening the same 
subject was revived at every lull in the conver 
sation, though Deweese kept constantly intruding 
the corral building and making inquiries after the 
hunt. " What difference does it make if we hunted 
or not ? " replied Uncle Lance to his foreman with 
some little feeling. "Suppose we did only hunt 



WINTER AT LAS PALOMAS 279 

every third or fourth day? Those "Wilson folks 
have a way of entertaining friends which makes 
riding after hounds seem commonplace. Why, the 
girls had Glenn and Aaron on the go until old 
man Nate and myself could hardly get them out on 
a hunt at all. And when they did, provided the 
girls were along, they managed to get separated, 
and along about dusk they 'd come slouching in by 
pairs, looking as innocent as turtle-doves. Not that 
those Wilson girls can't ride, for I never saw a bet 
ter horsewoman than Susie the one who took 
such a shine to Scales." 

I noticed Miss Jean cast a reproving glance at 
her brother on his connecting the name of Susie 
Wilson with that of his vagabond employee. The 
mistress was a puritan in morals. That Scales fell 
far below her ideal there was no doubt, and the 
brother knew too well not to differ with her on this 
subject. When all the boys had retired except Cot 
ton and me, the brother and sister became frank 
with each other. 

" Well, now, you must not blame me if Miss 
Susie was attentive to Aaron," said the old match 
maker, in conciliation, pacing the room. " He was 
from Las Palomas and their guest, and I see no 
harm in the girls being courteous and polite. Susie 
was just as nice as pie to me, and I hope you don't 
think I don't entertain the highest regard for Nate 
Wilson's family. Suppose one of the girls did smile 
a little too much on Aaron, was that my fault? 



280 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

Now, mind you, I never said a word one way or the 
other, but I '11 bet every cow on Las Palomas that 
Aaron Scales, vagabond that he is, can get Susie 
Wilson for the asking. I know your standard of 
morals, but you must make allowance for others 
who look upon things differently from you and 
me. You remember Katharine Vedder who mar 
ried Carey Troup at the close of the war. There 's 
a similar case for you. Katharine married Troup 
just because he was so wicked, at least that was the 
reason she gave, and she and you were old run- 
togethers. And you remember too that getting 
married was the turning-point in Carey Troup's 
life. Who knows but Aaron might sober down if 
he was to marry ? Just because a man has sown a 
few wild oats in his youth, does that condemn him 
for all time ? You want to be more liberal. Give 
me the man who has stood the fire tests of life in 
preference to one who has never been tempted." 

" Now, Lance, you know you had a motive in 
taking Aaron down to Wilson's," said the sister, re 
provingly. " Don't get the idea that I can't read you 
like an open book. Your argument is as good as 
an admission of your object in going to Ramirena. 
Ever since Scales got up that flirtation with Su 
zanne Vaux last summer, it was easy to see that 
Aaron was a favorite with you. Why don't you 
take Happersett around and introduce him to some 
nice girls ? Honest, Lance, I would n't give poor 
old Dan for the big beef corral full of rascals like 



WINTER AT LAS PALOMAS 281 

Scales. Look how he trifled with that silly girl in 
Florida." 

Instead of continuing the argument, the wily 
ranchero changed the subject. 

" The trouble with Dan is he 's too old. When a 
fellow begins to get a little gray around the edges, 
he gets so foxy that you couldn't bait him into 
a matrimonial trap with sweet grapes. But, Sis, 
what 's the matter with your keeping an eye open 
for a girl for Dan, if he 's such a favorite with you ? 
If I had half the interest in him that you profess, I 
certainly would n't ask any one to help. It wouldn't 
surprise me if the boys take to marrying freely 
after John and Tom bring their brides to Las Pa- 
lomas. Now that Mrs. Annear is a widow, there 's 
the same old chance for June. If Glenn don't make 
the riffle with Miss Jule, he ought to be shot on 
general principles. And I don't know, little sister, 
if you and I were both to oppose it, that we could 
prevent that rascal of an Aaron from marrying into 
the Wilson family. You have no idea what a case 
Susie and Scales scared up during our ten days' 
hunt. That only leaves Dan and Theodore. But 
what 's the use of counting the chickens so soon ? 
You go to bed, for I 'm going to send to the Mis 
sion to-morrow after the masons. There 's no use in 
my turning in, for I won't sleep a wink to-night, 
thinking all this over." 



CHAPTER XVIII 
AN INDIAN SCARE 

NEAR the close of January, '79, the Nueces valley 
was stirred by an Indian scare. I had a distinct 
recollection of two similar scares in my boyhood on 
the San Antonio River, in which I never caught a 
glimpse of the noble red man. But whether the 
rumors were groundless or not, Las Palomas set 
her house in order. The worst thing we had to fear 
was the loss of our saddle stock, as they were gentle 
and could be easily run off and corralled on the 
range by stretching lariats. At this time the ranch 
had some ten remudas including nearly five hun 
dred saddle horses, some of them ranging ten or 
fifteen miles from the ranch, and on receipt of the 
first rumor, every remuda was brought in home and 
put under a general herd, night and day. 

" These Indian scares," said Uncle Lance, " are 
just about as regular as drouths. When I first set 
tled here, the Indians hunted up and down this 
valley every few years, but they never molested 
anything. Why, I got well acquainted with several 
bucks, and used to swap rawhide with them for buck 
skin. Game was so abundant then that there was 
no temptation to kill cattle or steal horses. But the 



AN INDIAN SCARE 283 

rascals seem to be getting worse ever since. The 
last scare was just ten years ago next month, and 
kept us all guessing. The renegades were Kicka- 
poos and came down the Frio from out west. One 
Sunday morning they surprised two of Waugh's 
vaqueros while the latter were dressing a wild hog 
which they had killed. The Mexicans had only one 
horse and one gun between them. One of them took 
the horse and the other took the carbine. Not dar 
ing to follow the one with the gun for fear of am 
buscade, the Indians gave chase to the vaquero on 
horseback, whom they easily captured. After strip 
ping him of all his clothing, they tied his hands 
with thongs, and pinned the poor devil to a tree 
with spear thrusts through the back. 

"The other Mexican made his escape in the 
chaparral, and got back to the ranch. As it hap 
pened, there was only a man or two at Waugh's 
place at the time, and no attempt was made to fol 
low the Indians, who, after killing the vaquero, 
went on west to Altita Creek the one which puts 
into the Nueces from the north, just about twenty 
miles above the Ganso. Waugh had a sheep camp 
on the head of Altito, and there the Kickapoos 
killed two of his pastors and robbed the camp. 
From that creek on westward, their course was 
marked with murders and horse stealing, but the 
country was so sparsely settled that little or no re 
sistance could be offered, and the redskins escaped 
without punishment. At that time they were armed 



284 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

with bow and arrow and spears, but I have it on 
good authority that all these western tribes now 
have firearms. The very name of Indians scares 
women and children, and if they should come down 
this river, we must keep in the open and avoid am 
bush, as that is an Indian's forte." 

All the women and children at the outlying 
ranchitas were brought into headquarters, the 
men being left to look after the houses and their 
stock and flocks. In the interim, Father Norquin 
and the masons had arrived and the chapel was 
daily taking shape. But the rumors of the Indian 
raid thickened. Reports came in of shepherds shot 
with their flocks over near Espontos Lake and along 
the Leona River, and Las Palomas took on the air 
of an armed camp. Though we never ceased to ride 
the range wherever duty called, we went always in 
squads of four or five. 

The first abatement of the scare took place when 
one evening a cavalcade of Texas Rangers reached 
our ranch from DeWitt County. They consisted of 
fifteen mounted men under Lieutenant Frank Barr, 
with a commissary of four pack mules. The de 
tachment was from one of the crack companies of 
the state, and had with them several half-blood 
trailers, though every man in the squad was more 
or less of an expert in that line. They were travel 
ing light, and had covered over a hundred miles 
during the day and a half preceding their arrival 
at headquarters. The hospitality of Las Palomas 



AN INDIAN SCARE 285 

was theirs to command, and as their most urgent 
need was mounts, they were made welcome to the 
pick of every horse under herd. Sunrise saw our 
ranger guests on their way, leaving the high ten 
sion relaxed and every one on the ranch breathing 
easier. But the Indian scare did not prove an ill 
wind to the plans of Father Norquin. With the 
concentration of people from the ranchitas and 
those belonging at the home ranch, the chapel 
building went on by leaps and bounds. A native 
carpenter had been secured from Santa Maria, and 
the enthusiastic padre, laying aside his vestments, 
worked with his hands as a common laborer. The 
energy with which he inspired the natives made him 
a valuable overseer. From assisting the carpenter 
in hewing the rafters, to advising the masons in lay 
ing a keystone, or with his own hands mixing the 
mortar and tamping the earth to give firm founda 
tion to the cement floor, he was the directing spirit. 
Very little lumber was used in the construction 
of buildings at Las Palomas. The houses were 
thatched with a coarse salt grass, called by the na 
tives zacahuiste. Every year in the overflowed por 
tions of the valley, great quantities of this material 
were cut by the native help and stored against its 
need. The grass sometimes grew two feet in height, 
and at cutting was wrapped tightly and tied in 
" hands " about two inches in diameter. For fasten 
ing to the roofing lath, green blades of the Spanish 
dagger were used, which, after being roasted over a 



286 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

fire to toughen the fibre, were split into thongs and 
bound the hands securely in a solid mass, layer upon 
layer like shingles. Crude as it may appear, this 
was a most serviceable roof, being both rain proof 
and impervious to heat, while, owing to its compact 
ness, a live coal of fire laid upon it would smoulder 
but not ignite. 

No sooner had the masons finished the plastering 
of the inner walls and cementing the floor, than 
they began on a two-roomed cottage. As its white 
walls arose conjecture was rife as to who was to 
occupy it. I made no bones of the fact that I ex 
pected to occupy a jacal in the near future, but 
denied that this was to be mine, as I had been pro 
mised one with three rooms. Out of hearing of our 
employer, John Cotton also religiously denied that 
the tiny house was for his use. Fidel, however, took 
the chaffing without a denial, the padre and Uncle 
Lance being his two worst tormentors. 

During the previous visit of the padre, when the 
chapel was decided on, the order for the finishing 
material for the building had been placed with the 
merchant at Shepherd's, and was brought up from 
Corpus Christi through his freighters. We now had 
notice from the merchant that his teamsters had 
returned, and two four-mule teams went down to 
the ferry for the lumber, glassware, sash and doors. 
Miss Jean had been importuning the padre daily to 
know when the dedication would take place, as she 
was planning to invite the countryside. 



AN INDIAN SCARE 287 

" Ah, my daughter," replied the priest, " we must 
learn to cultivate patience. All things that abide 
are of slow but steady growth, and my work is for 
eternity. Therefore I must be an earnest servant, 
so that when my life's duty ends, it can be said in 
truth, ' Well done, thou good and faithful servant/ 
But I am as anxious to consecrate this building to 
the Master's service as any one. My good woman, 
if I only had a few parishioners like you, we would 
work wonders among these natives." 

On the return of the mule teams, the completion 
of the building could be determined, and the padre 
announced the twenty-first of February as the date 
of dedication. On reaching this decision, the ranch 
was set in order for an occasion of more than ordi 
nary moment. Fidel and Juana were impatient to 
be married, and the master and mistress had decided 
that the ceremony should be performed the day 
after the dedication, and all the guests of the ranch 
should remain for the festivities. The padre, still 
in command, dispatched a vaquero to the Mission, 
announcing the completion of the chapel, and asking 
for a brother priest to bring out certain vestments 
and assist in the dedicatory exercises. The Indian 
scare was subsiding, and as no word had come from 
the rangers confidence grew that the worst was over, 
so we scattered in every direction inviting guests. 
From the Booths on the Frio to the Wilsons of 
Ramirena, and along the home river as far as La- 
garto, our friends were bidden in the name of the 
master and mistress of Las Paloinas. 



288 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

On my return from taking the invitations to the 
ranches north, the chapel was just receiving the fin 
ishing touches. The cross crowning the front glis 
tened in fresh paint, while on the interior walls 
shone cheap lithographs of the Madonna and Christ. 
The old padre, proud and jealous as a bridegroom 
over his bride, directed the young friar here and 
there, himself standing aloof and studying with an 
artist's eye every effect in color and drapery. The 
only discordant note in the interior was the rough 
benches, in the building of which Father Norquin 
himself had worked, thus following, as he repeat 
edly admonished us, in the footsteps of his Master, 
the carpenter of Galilee. 

The ceremony of dedication was to be followed 
by mass at high noon. Don Mateo Gonzales of 
Santa Maria sent his regrets, as did likewise Don 
Alejandro Travino of the Mission, but the other 
invited guests came early and stayed late. The 
women and children of the outlying ranchitas had 
not yet returned to their homes, and with our invited 
guests made an assembly of nearly a hundred and 
fifty persons. Unexpectedly, and within two hours 
of the appointed time for the service to commence, 
a cavalcade was sighted approaching the ranch 
from the west. As they turned in towards head 
quarters, some one recognized the horses, and a shout 
of welcome greeted our ranger guests of over two 
weeks before. Uncle Lance met them as if they 
had been expected, and invited the lieutenant and 



AN INDIAN SCARE 289 

his men to dismount and remain a few days as 
guests of Las Palomas. When they urged the im 
portance of continuing on their journey to report 
to the governor, the host replied : 

" Lieutenant Barr, that don't go here. Fall out 
of your saddles and borrow all the razors and white 
shirts on the ranch, for we need you for the dedi 
cation of a chapel to-day, and for a wedding and 
infare for to-morrow. We don't see you along this 
river as often as we 'd like to, and when you do 
happen along in time for a peaceful duty, you can't 
get away so easily. If you have any special report 
to make to your superiors, why, write her out, and 
I '11 send a vaquero with it to Oakville this after 
noon, and it '11 g6 north on the stage to-morrow. 
But, lieutenant, you must n't think you can ride 
right past Las Palomas when you 're not under 
emergency orders. Now, fall off those horses and 
spruce up a little, for I intend to introduce you to 
some as nice girls as you ever met. You may want 
to quit rangering some day, and I may need a man 
about your size, and I 'm getting tired of single 
ones." 

Lieutenant Barr surrendered. Saddles were 
stripped from horses, packs were unlashed from 
mules, and every animal was sent to our remudas 
under herd. The accoutrements were stacked in 
side the gate like haycocks, with slickers thrown 
over them ; the carbines were thrown on the gal 
lery, and from every nail, peg, or hook on the wall 



290 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

belts and six-shooters hung in groups. These ran 
gers were just ordinary looking men, and might 
have been mistaken for an outfit of cow hands. In 
age they ranged from a smiling youth of twenty to 
grizzled men of forty, yet in every countenance was 
written a resolute determination. All the razors 
on the ranch were brought into immediate use, 
while every presentable shirt, collar, and tie in the 
house was unearthed and placed at their disposal. 
While arranging hasty toilets, the men informed us 
that when they reached Espontos Lake the red 
skins had left, and that they had trailed them south 
until the Indians had crossed the Eio Grande into 
Mexico several days in advance of their arrival. 
The usual number of isolated sheepherders killed, 
and of horses stolen, were the features of the raid. 

The guests had been arriving all morning. The 
Booths had reached the ranch the night before, 
and the last to put in an appearance was the con 
tingent from the Frio and San Miguel. Before the 
appearance of the rangers, they had been sighted 
across the river, and they rode up with Pierre 
Vaux, like a captain of the Old Guard, in the lead. 

" Ah, Don Lance," he cried, " vat you tink ? Dey 
say Don Pierre no ride fas' goin' to church. Dese 
youngsters laff all time and say I never get here 
unless de dogs is 'long. Sacre ! Act all time lak I 
vas von ol' man. Hunibre, keep away from dis 
horse ; he allow nobody but me to lay von han' on 
him keep away, I tol' you ! " 



AN INDIAN SCARE 291 

I helped the girls to dismount, Miss Jean kissing 
them right and left, and bustling them off into the 
house to tidy up as fast as possible ; for the hour 
was almost at hand. On catching sight of Mrs. 
Annear, fresh and charming in her widow's weeds, 
Uncle Lance brushed Don Pierre aside and cor 
dially greeted her. Vaqueros took the horses, and 
as I strolled up the pathway with Esther, I noticed ail 
upper window full of ranger faces peering down on 
the girls. Before this last contingent had had time 
to spruce up, Pasquale's eldest boy rode around all 
the jacals, ringing a small handbell to summon the 
population to the dedication. Outside of our home 
crowd, we had forty white guests, not including 
the two Booth children and the priests. As fast as 
the rangers were made presentable, the master and 
mistress introduced them to all the girls present. 
Of course, there were a few who could not be en 
ticed near a woman, but Quayle and Happersett, 
like kindred spirits, took the backward ones under 
their wing, and the procession started for the 
chapel. 

The audience was typical of the Texas frontier 
at the close of the '70's. Two priests of European 
birth conducted the services. Pioneer cowmen of 
various nationalities and their families intermin 
gled and occupied central seats. By the side of 
his host, a veteran of '36, when Mexican rule was 
driven from the land, sat Lieutenant Barr, then en 
gaged in accomplishing a second redemption of the 



292 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

state from crime and lawlessless. Lovable and 
esteemed men were present, who had followed the 
fortunes of war until the Southern flag, to which 
they had rallied, went down in defeat. The younger 
generation of men were stalwart in physique, while 
the girls were modest in their rustic beauty. Sit 
ting on the cement floor on three sides of us were 
the natives of the ranch, civilized but with little 
improvement over their Aztec ancestors. 

The dedicatory exercises were brief and simple. 
Every one was invited to remain for the celebration 
of the first mass in the newly consecrated build 
ing. Many who were not communicants accepted, 
but noticing the mistress and my sweetheart taking 
their leave, I joined them and assisted in arranging 
the tables so that all our guests could be seated 
at two sittings. At the conclusion of the services, 
dinner was waiting, and Father Norquin and Mr. 
Nate Wilson were asked to carve at one table, 
while the young friar and Lieutenant Barr, in a 
similar capacity, officiated at the other. There was 
so much volunteer help in the kitchen that I was 
soon excused, and joined the younger people on 
the gallery. As to whom Cotton and Gallup were 
monopolizing there was no doubt, but I had a curi 
osity to notice what Scales would do when placed 
between two fires. But not for nothing had he 
cultivated the acquaintance of a sandy-mustached 
young ranger, who was at that moment entertaining 
Suzanne Vaux in an alcove at the farther end of the 



AN INDIAN SCARE 293 

veranda. Aaron, when returning from the chapel 
with Susie Wilson, had succeeded in getting no 
nearer the house than a clump of oak trees which 
sheltered an old rustic settee. And when the young 
folks were called in to dinner, the vagabond Scales 
and Miss Wilson of Ramirena had to be called the 
second time. 

In seating the younger generation, Miss Jean 
showed her finesse. Nearly all the rangers had dined 
at the first tables, but the widow Annear waited for 
the second one why, only a privileged few of us 
could guess. Artfully and with seeming unconscious 
ness on the part of every one, Deweese was placed 
beside the charming widow, though I had a suspi 
cion that June was the only innocent party in the 
company. Captain Byler and I were carving at the 
same table at which our foreman and the widow were 
seated, and, being in the secret, I noted step by 
step the progress of the widow, and the signs of 
gradual surrender of the corporal segundo. I had a 
distinct recollection of having once smashed some 
earnest resolves, and of having capitulated under 
similar circumstances, and now being happily in 
love, I secretly wished success to the little god Cupid 
in the case in hand. And all during the afternoon 
and evening, it was clearly apparent to any one who 
cared to notice that success was very likely. 

The evening was a memorable one at Las Palo- 
mas. Never before in my knowledge had the ranch 
had so many and such amiable guests. The rangers 



294 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

took kindly to our hospitality, and Father Norquin 
waddled about, God-blessing every one, old and 
young, frivolous and sedate. Owing to the nature 
of the services of the day, the evening was spent 
in conversation among the elders, while the younger 
element promenaded the spacious gallery, or occu 
pied alcoves, nooks, and corners about the grounds. 
On retiring for the night, the men yielded the house 
to the women guests, sleeping on the upper and 
lower verandas, while the ranger contingent, scorn 
ing beds or shelter, unrolled their blankets under 
the spreading live-oaks in the yard. 

But the real interest centred in the marriage of 
Fidel and Juana, which took place at six o'clock the 
following evening. Every one, including the native 
element, repaired to the new chapel to attend the 
wedding. Uncle Lance and his sister had rivaled 
each other as to whether man or maid should have 
the better outfit. Fidel was physically far above the 
average of the natives, slightly bow-legged, stolid, 
and the coolest person in the church. The bride 
was in quite a flutter, but having been coached and 
rehearsed daily by her mistress, managed to get 
through the ordeal. The young priest performed the 
ceremony, using his own native tongue, the rich, 
silvery accents of Spanish. At the conclusion of the 
service, every one congratulated the happy couple, 
the women and girls in tears, the sterner sex with 
out demonstration of feeling. When we were out 
side the chapel, and waiting for our sweethearts 



AN INDIAN SCARE 295 

to dry their tears and join us, Uncle Lance came 
swaggering over to John Cotton and me, and, slap 
ping us both on the back, said : 

" Boys, that rascal of a Fidel has a splendid nerve. 
Did you notice how he faced the guns without a 
tremor ; never batted an eye but took his medi 
cine like a little man. I hope both of you boys will 
show equally good nerve when your turn comes. 
Why, I doubt if there was a ranger in the whole 
squad, unless it was that red-headed rascal who 
kissed the bride, who would have stood the test like 
that vaquero without a shiver. And it 's some 
thing you can't get used to. Now, as you all know, 
I've been married three times. The first two times 
I was as cool as most, but the third whirl I trem 
bled all over. Quavers ran through me, my tongue 
was palsied, my teeth chattered, my knees knocked 
together, and I felt like a man that was sent for 
and could n't go. Now, mind you, it was the third 
time and I was only forty-five." 

What a night that was ! The contents of the 
warehouse had been shifted, native musicians had 
come up from Santa Maria, and every one about the 
home ranch who could strum a guitar was pressed 
into service. The storeroom was given over to the 
natives, and after honoring the occasion with 
their presence as patrons, the master and mistress, 
after the opening dance, withdrew in company with 
their guests. The night had then barely commenced. 
Claiming two guitarists, we soon had our guests 



296 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

waltzing on veranda, hall, and spacious dining-room 
to the music of my fiddle. Several of the rangers 
could play, and by taking turns every one had a 
joyous time, including the two priests. Among the 
Mexicans the dancing continued until daybreak. 
Shortly after midnight our guests retired, and the 
next morning found all, including the priests, pre 
paring to take their departure. As was customary, 
we rode a short distance with our guests, bidding 
them again to Las Palomas and receiving similar in 
vitations in return. With the exception of Captain 
Byler, the rangers were the last to take their leave. 
When the mules were packed and their mounts 
saddled, the old ranchero extended them a welcome 
whenever they came that way again. 

" Well, now, Mr. Lovelace," said Lieutenant 
Barr, " you had better not press that invitation too 
far. The good time we have had with you discounts 
rangering for the State of Texas. Eest assured, sir, 
that we will not soon forget the hospitality of Las 
Palomas, nor its ability to entertain. Push on with 
the packs, boys, and I '11 take leave of the mistress in 
"behalf of you all, and overtake the squad before it 
reaches the river." 



CHAPTER XIX 
HORSE BRANDS 

BEFORE gathering the fillies and mares that spring, 
and while riding the range, locating our horse stock, 
Pasquale brought in word late one evening that a 
ladino stallion had killed the regular one, and was 
then in possession of the manada. The fight between 
the outlaw and the ranch stallion had evidently oc 
curred above the mouth of the Ganso and several 
miles to the north of the home river, for he had ac 
cidentally found the carcass of the dead horse at a 
small lake and, recognizing the animal by his color, 
had immediately scoured the country in search of 
the band. He had finally located the manada, many 
miles off their range ; but at sight of the vaquero 
the ladino usurper had deserted the mares, halting, 
however, out of gunshot, yet following at a safe dis 
tance as Pasquale drifted them back. Leaving the 
manada on their former range, Pasquale had rid 
den into the ranch and reported. It was then too 
late in the day to start against the interloper, as 
the range was fully twenty-five miles away, and we 
were delayed the next morning in getting up speedy 
saddle horses from distant and various remudas, 
and did not get away from the ranch until after 



298 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

dinner. But then we started, taking the usual pack 
mules, and provisioned for a week's outing. 

Included in the party was Captain Frank Byler, 
the regular home crowd, and three Mexicans. With 
an extra saddle horse for each, we rode away mer 
rily to declare war on the ladino stallion. " This is 
the third time since I 've "been ranching here," said 
Uncle Lance to Captain Frank, as we rode along, 
" that I 've had stallions killed. There always have 
been bands of wild horses, west here between the 
Leona and Nueces rivers and around Espontos Lake. 
Now that country is settling up, the people walk 
down the bands and the stallions escape, and in 
drifting about find our range. They 're wiry ras 
cals, and our old stallions don't stand any more show 
with them than a fat hog would with a javaline. 
That 's why I take as much pride in killing one as 
I do a rattlesnake." 

We made camp early that evening on the home 
river, opposite the range of the manada. Sending 
out Pasquale to locate the band and watch them 
until dark, Uncle Lance outlined his idea of cir 
cling the band and bagging the outlaw in the uncer 
tain light of dawn. Pasquale reported on his return 
after dark that the manada were contentedly feed 
ing on their accustomed range within three miles 
of camp. Pasquale had watched the band for an 
hour, and described the ladino stallion as a cin 
namon-colored coyote, splendidly proportioned and 
unusually large for a mustang. 



HORSE BRANDS 299 

Naturally, in expectation of the coming sport, the 
horses became the topic around the camp-fire that 
night. Every man present was a born horseman, 
and there was a generous rivalry for the honor in 
telling horse stories. Aaron Scales joined the group 
at a fortunate time to introduce an incident from 
his own experience, and, raking out a coal of fire for 
his pipe, began : 

" The first ranch I ever worked on," said he, 
" was located on the Navidad in Lavaca County. It 
was quite a new country then, rather broken and 
timbered in places and full of bear and wolves. 
Our outfit was working some cattle before the gen 
eral round-up in the spring. We wanted to move 
one brand to another range as soon as the grass 
would permit, and we were gathering them for that 
purpose. We had some ninety saddle horses with 
us to do the work, sufficient to mount fifteen 
men. One night we camped in a favorite spot, and 
as we had no cattle to hold that night, all the horses 
were thrown loose, with the usual precaution of 
hobbling, except two or three on picket. All but 
about ten head wore the bracelets, and those ten 
were pals, their pardners wearing the hemp. Early 
in the evening, probably nine o'clock, with a bright 
fire burning, and the boys spreading down their 
beds for the night, suddenly the horses were heard 
running, and the next moment they hobbled into 
camp like a school of porpoise, trampling over the 
beds and crowding up to the fire and the wagon. 



300 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

They almost knocked down some of the boys, so 
sudden was their entrance. Then they set up a ter 
rible nickering for mates. The boys went amongst 
them, and horses that were timid and shy almost 
caressed their riders, trembling in limb and muscle 
the while through fear, like a leaf. We concluded 
a bear had scented the camp, and in approaching 
it had circled round, and run amuck our saddle 
horses. Every horse by instinct is afraid of a bear, 
but more particularly a range - raised one. It 's 
the same instinct that makes it impossible to ride 
or drive a range-raised horse over a rattlesnake. 
Well, after the boys had petted their mounts and 
quieted their fears, they were still reluctant to leave 
camp, but stood around for several hours, evidently 
feeling more secure in our presence. Now and then 
one of the free ones would graze out a little dis 
tance, cautiously sniff the air, then trot back to the 
others. We built up a big fire to scare away any 
bear or wolves that might be in the vicinity, but 
the horses stayed like invited guests, perfectly con 
tented as long as we would pet them and talk to 
them. Some of the boys crawled under the wagon, 
hoping to get a little sleep, rather than spread their 
bed where a horse could stampede over it. Near 
midnight we took ropes and saddle blankets and 
drove them several hundred yards from camp. The 
rest of the night we slept with one eye open, ex 
pecting every moment to hear them take fright and 
return. They did n't, but at daylight every horse 



HORSE BRANDS 301 

was within five hundred yards of the wagon, and 
when we unhobbled them and broke camp that 
morning, we had to throw riders in the lead to hold 
them back." 

On the conclusion of Scales's experience, there 
was no lack of volunteers to take up the thread, 
though an unwritten law forbade interruptions. 
Our employer was among the group, and out of 
deference to our guest, the boys remained silent. 
Uncle Lance finally regaled us with an account of 
a fight between range stallions which he had once 
witnessed, and on its conclusion Theodore Quayle 
took his turn. 

" The man I was working for once moved nearly 
a thousand head of mixed range stock, of which 
about three hundred were young mules, from the 
San Saba to the Concho River. It was a dry country 
and we were compelled to follow the McKavett and 
Fort Chadbourne trail. We had timed our drives 
so that we reached creeks once a day at least, some 
times oftener. It was the latter part of summer, 
and was unusually hot and drouthy. There was one 
drive of twenty-five miles ahead that the owner knew 
of without water, and we had planned this drive so 
as to reach it at noon, drive halfway, make a dry 
camp over night, and reach the pools by noon the 
next day. Imagine our chagrin on reaching the 
watering place to find the stream dry. We lost 
several hours riding up and down the arroyo in the 
hope of finding relief for the men, if not for the 



302 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

stock. It had been dusty for weeks. The cook had 
a little water in his keg, but only enough for drink 
ing purposes. It was twenty miles yet to the Con- 
cho, and make it before night we must. Turning 
back was farther than going ahead, and the after 
noon was fearfully hot. The heat waves looked like 
a sea of fire. The first part of the afternoon drive 
was a gradual ascent for fifteen miles, and then 
came a narrow plateau of a divide. As we reached 
this mesa, a sorrier-looking lot of men, horses, and 
mules can hardly be imagined. We had already 
traveled over forty miles without water for the 
stock, and five more lay between us and the coveted 
river. 

" The heat was oppressive to the men, but the 
herd suffered most from the fine alkali dust which 
enveloped them. Their eyebrows and nostrils were 
whitened with this fine powder, while all colors 
merged into one. On reaching this divide, we could 
see the cotton-woods that outlined the stream ahead. 
Before we had fully crossed this watershed and be 
gun the descent, the mules would trot along beside 
the riders in the lead, even permitting us to lay our 
hands on their backs. It was getting late in the 
day before the first friendly breeze of the afternoon 
blew softly in our faces. Then, Great Scott ! what 
a change came over man and herd. The mules in 
front threw up their heads and broke into a grand 
chorus. Those that were strung out took up the 
refrain and trotted forward. The horses set up a 



HORSE BRANDS 303 

rival concert in a higher key. They had scented 
the water five miles off. 

" All hands except one man on each side now rode 
in the lead. Every once in a while, some enthusi 
astic mule would break through the line of horsemen, 
and would have to be brought back. Every time 
we came to an elevation where we could catch the 
breeze, the grand horse and mule concert would 
break out anew. At the last elevation between us 
and the water, several mules broke through, and 
before they could be brought back the whole herd 
had broken into a run which was impossible to 
check. We opened out then and let them go. 

" The Concho was barely running, but had long, 
deep pools here and there, into which horses and 
mules plunged, dropped down, rolled over, and then 
got up to nicker and bray. The young mules did 
everything but drink, while the horses were crazy 
with delight. When the wagon came up we went 
into camp and left them to play out their hands. 
There was no herding to do that night, as the water 
would hold them as readily as a hundred men." 

" Well, I 'm going to hunt my blankets," said 
Uncle Lance, rising. " You understand, Captain, 
that you are to sleep with me to-night. Davy 
Crockett once said that the politest man he ever 
met in Washington simply set out the decanter 
and glasses, and then walked over and looked out 
of the window while he took a drink. Now I want 
to be equally polite and don't want to hurry you to 



304 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

sleep, but whenever you get tired of yarning, you '11 
find the bed with me in it to the windward of that 
live-oak tree top over yonder." 

Captain Frank showed no inclination to accept 
the invitation just then, but assured his host that he 
would join him later. An hour or two passed by. 

" Have n't you fellows gone to bed yet ? " came 
an inquiry from out of a fallen tree top beyond the 
fire in a voice which we all recognized. " All right, 
boys, sit up all night and tell fool stories if you 
want to. But remember, I '11 have the last rascal of 
you in the saddle an hour before daybreak. I have 
little sympathy for a man who won't sleep when he 
has a good chance. So if you don't turn in at all it 
will be all right, but you '11 be routed out at three 
in the morning, and the man who requires a second 
calling will get a bucket of water in his face." 

Captain Frank and several of us rose expecting 
to take the hint of our employer, when our good in 
tentions were arrested by a query from Dan Hap- 
persett, " Did any of you ever walk down a wild 
horse ? " None of us had, and we turned back and 
reseated ourselves in the group. 

" I had a little whirl of it once when I was a 
youngster," said Dan, " except we did n't walk. It 
was well known that there were several bands of 
wild horses ranging in the southwest corner of Tom 
Green County. Those who had seen them described 
one band as numbering forty to fifty head with a fine 
chestnut stallion as a leader. Their range was well 



HOESE BRANDS 305 

located when water was plentiful, but during cer 
tain months of the year the shallow lagoons where 
they watered dried up, and they were compelled 
to leave. It was when they were forced to go to 
other waters that glimpses of them were to be had, 
and then only at a distance of one or two miles. 
There was an outfit made up one spring to go out 
to their range and walk these horses down. This 
season of the year was selected, as the lagoons would 
be full of water and the horses would be naturally 
reduced in flesh and strength after the winter, as 
well as weak and thin blooded from their first taste 
of grass. We took along two wagons, one loaded 
with grain for our mounts. These saddle horses bad 
been eating grain for months before we started and 
their flesh was firm and solid. 

" We headed for the lagoons, which were known 
to a few of our party, and when we came within ten 
miles of the water holes, we saw fresh signs of a 
band places where they had apparently grazed 
within a week. But it was the second day before 
we caught sight of the wild horses, and too late in 
the day to give them chase. They were watering at 
a large lake south of our camp, and we did not dis 
turb them. We watched them until nightfall, and 
that night we planned to give them chase at day 
break. Four of us were to do the riding by turns, 
and imaginary stations were allotted to the four 
quarters of our camp. If they refused to leave their 
range and circled, we could send them at least a 



306 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

hundred and fifty miles the first day, ourselves rid 
ing possibly a hundred, and this riding would be 
divided among four horses, with plenty of fresh 
ones at camp for a change. 

" Being the lightest rider in the party, it was de 
cided that I was to give them the first chase. We 
had a crafty plainsman for our captain, and long 
before daylight he and I rode out and waited for 
the first peep of day. Before the sun had risen, we 
sighted the wild herd within a mile of the place 
where darkness had settled over them the night pre 
vious. With a few parting instructions from our 
captain, I rode leisurely between them and the lake 
where they had watered the evening before. At first 
sight of me they took fright and ran to a slight ele 
vation. There they halted a moment, craning their 
necks and sniffing the air. This was my first fair 
view of the chestnut stallion. He refused to break 
into a gallop, and even stopped before the rest, 
turning defiantly on this intruder of his domain. 
From the course I was riding, every moment I was 
expecting them to catch the wind of me. Sud 
denly they scented me, knew me for an enemy, and 
with the stallion in the lead they were off to the 
south. 

" It was an exciting ride that morning. Without 
a halt they ran twenty miles to the south, then 
turned to the left and there halted on an elevation ; 
but a shot in the air told them that all was not well 
and they moved on. For an hour and a half they 



HORSE BRANDS 307 

kept their course to the east, and at last turned to 
the north. This was, as we had calculated, about 
their range. In another hour at the farthest, a new 
rider with a fresh horse would take up the running. 
My horse was still fresh and enjoying the chase, 
when on a swell of the plain I made out the rider 
who was to relieve me ; and though it was early yet 
in the day the mustangs had covered sixty miles to 
my forty. When I saw my relief locate the band, I 
turned and rode leisurely to camp. When the last 
two riders came into camp that night, they reported 
having left the herd at a new lake, to which the 
mustang had led them, some fifteen miles from our 
camp to the westward. 

" Each day for the following week was a repeti 
tion of the first with varying incident. But each 
day it was plain to be seen that they were fagging 
fast. Toward the evening of the eighth day, the 
rider dared not crowd them for fear of their splitting 
into small bands, a thing to be avoided. On the 
ninth day two riders took them at a time, pushing 
them unmercifully but preventing them from split 
ting, and in the evening of this day they could be 
turned at the will of the riders. It was then agreed 
that after a half day's chase on the morrow, they 
could be handled with ease. By noon next day, we 
had driven them within a mile of our camp. 

" They were tired out and we turned them into an 
impromptu corral made of wagons and ropes. All 
but the chestnut stallion. At the last he escaped 



308 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

us ; he stopped on a little knoll and took a farewell 
look at his band. 

" There were four old United States cavalry 
horses among our captive band of mustangs, gray 
with age and worthless no telling where they 
came from. We clamped a mule shoe over the 
pasterns of the younger horses, tied toggles to 
the others, and the next morning set out on our 
return to the settlements." 

Under his promise the old ranchero had the camp 
astir over an hour before dawn. Horses were 
brought in from picket ropes, and divided into two 
squads, Pasquale leading off to the windward of 
where the band was located at dusk previous. The 
rest of the men followed Uncle Lance to complete 
the leeward side of the circle. The location of the 
manada had been described as between a small hill 
covered with Spanish bayonet on one hand, and a 
zacahuiste flat nearly a mile distant on the other, 
both well-known landmarks. As we rode out and 
approached the location, we dropped a man every 
half mile until the hill and adjoining salt flat had 
been surrounded. We had divided what rifles the 
ranch owned between the two squads, so that each 
side of the circle was armed with four guns. I had 
a carbine, and had been stationed about midway of 
the leeward half-circle. At the first sign of dawn, 
the signal agreed upon, a turkey call, sounded back 
down the line, and we advanced. The circle was 
fully two miles in diameter, and on receiving the 




UTTERING A SINGLE PIERCING SNORT 



HORSE BRANDS 309 

signal I rode slowly forward, halting at every sound. 
It was a cloudy morning and dawn came late for 
clear vision. Several times I dismounted and in 
approaching objects at a distance drove my horse 
before me, only to find that, as light increased, I 
was mistaken. 

When both the flat and the dagger crowned hill 
came into view, not a living object was in sight. 
I had made the calculation that, had the manada 
grazed during the night, we should be far to the 
leeward of the band, for it was reasonable to expect 
that they would feed against the wind. But there 
was also the possibility that the outlaw might have 
herded the band several miles distant during the 
night, and while I was meditating on this theory, a 
shot rang out about a mile distant and behind the 
hill. Giving my horse the rowel, I rode in the di 
rection of the report ; but before I reached the hill 
the manada tore around it, almost running into me. 
The coyote mustang was leading the band ; but as I 
halted for a shot, he turned inward, and, the mares 
intervening, cut off my opportunity. But the warn 
ing shot had reached every rider on the circle, and 
as I plied rowel and quirt to turn the band, Tio 
Tiburcio cut in before me and headed them back 
ward. As the band whirled away from us the stal 
lion forged to the front and, by biting and a free 
use of his heels, attempted to turn the manada on 
their former course. But it mattered little which 
way they turned now, for our cordon was closing 



310 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

round them, the windward line then being less than 
a mile distant. 

As the band struck the eastward or windward 
line of horsemen, the mares, except for the control 
of the stallion, would have yielded, but now, under 
his leadership, they recoiled like a band of ladinos. 
But every time they approached the line of the 
closing circle they were checked, and as the cordon 
closed to less than half a mile in diameter, in spite 
of the outlaw's lashings, the manada quieted down 
and halted. Then we unslung our carbines and 
rifles and slowly closed in upon the quarry. Several 
times the mustang stallion came to the outskirts of 
the band, uttering a single piercing snort, but never 
exposed himself for a shot. Little by little as we 
edged in he grew impatient, and finally trotted out 
boldly as if determined to forsake his harem and 
rush the line. But the moment he cleared the band 
Uncle Lance dismounted, and as he knelt the stal 
lion stopped like a statue, gave a single challeng 
ing snort, which was answered by a rifle report, and 
he fell in his tracks. 



CHAPTER XX 
SHADOWS 

SPRING was now at hand after an unusually mild 
winter. With the breaking of the drouth of the 
summer before there had sprung up all through the 
encinal and sandy lands an immense crop of weeds, 
called by the natives margoso, fallow-weed. This 
plant had thriven all winter, and the cattle had for 
saken the best mesquite grazing in the river bot 
toms to forage on it. The results showed that their 
instinct was true ; for with very rare exceptions 
every beef on the ranch was fit for the butcher's 
block. Truly it was a year of fatness succeeding a 
lean one. Never during my acquaintance with Las 
Palomas had I seen the cattle come through a winter 
in such splendid condition. But now there was no 
market. Faint rumors reached us of trail herds 
being put up in near-by counties, and it was known 
that several large ranches in Nueces County were 
going to try the experiment of sending their own 
cattle up the trail. Lack of demand was discour 
aging to most ranchmen, and our range was glutted 
with heavy steer cattle. 

The first spring work of any importance was 
gathering the horses to fill a contract we had with 



312 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

Captain Byler. Previous to the herd which Deweese 
had sold and delivered at Fort Worth the year be 
fore, our horse stock had amounted to about four 
thousand head. With the present sale the ranch 
holdings would be much reduced, and it was our 
intention to retain all manadas used in the breed 
ing of mules. When we commenced gathering we 
worked over every one of our sixty odd bands, cut 
ting out all the fillies and barren mares. In dis 
posing of whole manadas we kept only the geldings 
and yearlings, throwing in the old stallions for good 
measure, as they would be worthless to us when 
separated from their harems. In less than a week's 
time we had made up the herd, and as they were 
all in the straight ' horse hoof ' we did not road- 
brand them. While gathering them we put them 
under day and night herd, throwing in five remudas 
as we had agreed, but keeping back the bell mares, 
as they were gentle and would be useful in forming 
new bands of saddle horses. The day before the ap 
pointed time for the delivery, the drover brought 
up saddle horses and enough picked mares to make 
his herd number fifteen hundred. 

The only unpleasant episode of the sale was a 
difference between Theodore Quayle and my em 
ployer. Quayle had cultivated the friendship of the 
drover until the latter had partially promised him 
a job with the herd, in case there was no objec 
tion. But when Uncle Lance learned that Theodore 
expected to accompany the horses, he took Captain 



SHADOWS 313 

Frank to task for attempting to entice away his 
men. The drover entered a strong disclaimer, main 
taining that he had promised Quayle a place only 
in case it was satisfactory to all concerned ; fur 
ther, that in trail work with horses he preferred 
Mexican vaqueros, and had only made the condi 
tional promise as a favor to the young man. Uncle 
Lance accepted the explanation and apologized to 
the drover, but fell on Theodore Quayle and cruelly 
upbraided him for forsaking the ranch without cause 
or reason. Theodore was speechless with humilia 
tion, but no sooner were the hasty words spoken 
than my employer saw that he had grievously hurt 
another's feelings, and humbly craved Quayle's 
pardon. 

The incident passed and was apparently forgotten. 
The herd started north on the trail on the twenty- 
fifth of March, Quayle stayed on at Las Palomas, 
and we resumed our regular spring work on the 
ranch. While gathering the mares and fillies, we 
had cut out all the geldings four years old and up 
ward to the number of nearly two hundred, and 
now our usual routine of horse breaking commenced. 
The masons had completed their work on all three 
of the cottages and returned to the Mission, but the 
carpenter yet remained to finish up the woodwork. 
Fidel and Juana had begun housekeeping in their 
little home, and the cosy warmth which radiated 
from it made me impatient to see my cottage fin 
ished. Through the mistress, arrangements had been 



314 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

made for the front rooms in both John's cottage 
and mine to be floored instead of cemented. 

Some two weeks before Easter Sunday, Cotton 
returned from the Frio, where he had been making 
a call on his intended. Uncle Lance at once ques 
tioned him to know if they had set the day, and 
was informed that the marriage would occur within 
ten days after Lent, and that he expected first to 
make a hurried trip to San Antonio for a wedding 
outfit. 

"That's all right, John," said the old rancher o 
approvingly, "and I expect Quirk might as well 
go with you. You can both draw every cent due 
you, and take your time, as wages will go right on 
the same as if you were working. There will not 
be much to do except the usual horse breaking and 
a little repairing about the ranch. It 's quite likely 
I shan't be able to spare Tom in the early summer, 
for if no cattle buyers come along soon, I'm going 
to send June to the coast and let him sniff around 
for one. I 'd like the best in the world to sell about 
three thousand beeves, and we never had fatter 
ones than we have to-day. If we can make a sale, 
it '11 keep us busy all the fore part of the summer. 
So both you fellows knock off any day you want to 
and go up to the city. And go horseback, for this 
ranch don't give Bethel & Oxenford's stages any 
more of its money." 

With this encouragement, we decided to start 
for the city the next morning. But that evening I 



SHADOWS 315 

concluded to give a certain roan gelding a final 
ride before turning him over to the vaqueros. He 
was a vicious rascal, and after trying a hundred 
manoeuvres to unhorse me, reared and fell back 
ward, and before I could free my foot from the 
stirrup, caught my left ankle, fracturing several of 
the small bones in the joint. That settled my going 
anywhere on horseback for a month, as the next 
morning I could not touch my foot to the ground. 
John did not like to go alone, and the mistress 
insisted that Theodore was well entitled to a va 
cation. The master consented, each was paid the 
wages due him, and catching up their own private 
horses, the old cronies started off to San Antonio. 
They expected to make Mr. Booth's ranch in a lit 
tle over half a day, and from there a sixty -mile ride 
would put them in the city. 

After the departure of the boys the dull routine 
of ranch work went heavily forward. The horse 
breaking continued, vaqueros rode the range look 
ing after the calf crop, while I had to content 
myself with nursing a crippled foot and hobbling 
about on crutches. Had I been able to ride a horse, 
it is quite possible that a ranch on the San Miguel 
would have had me as its guest ; but I must needs 
content myself with lying around the house, visit 
ing with Juana, or watching the carpenter finishing 
the cottages. I tried several times to interest my 
mistress in a scheme to invite my sweetheart over 
for a week or two, but she put me off on one pre- 



316 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

text and another until I was vexed at her lack of 
enthusiasm. But truth compels me to do that good 
woman justice, and I am now satisfied that my 
vexation was due to my own peevishness over my 
condition and not to neglect on her part. And 
just then she was taking such an absorbing interest 
in June and the widow, and likewise so sisterly a 
concern for Dan Happersett, that it was little won 
der she could give me no special attention when I 
was soon to be married. It was the bird in the 
bush that charmed Miss Jean. 

Towards the close of March a number of showers 
fell, and we had a week of damp, cloudy weather. 
This was unfortunate, as it called nearly every man 
from the horse breaking to ride the range and look 
after the young calves. One of the worst enemies 
of a newly born calf is screw worms, which flourish 
in wet weather, and prove fatal unless removed ; 
for no young calf withstands the pest over a few 
days. Clear dry weather was the best preventive 
against screw worms, but until the present damp 
spell abated every man in the ranch was in the 
saddle from sunrise to sunset. 

In the midst of this emergency work a beef buyer 
by the name of Wayne Orahood reached the ranch. 
He was representing the lessees of a steamship com 
pany plying between New Orleans and Texas coast 
points. The merchant at the ferry had advised 
Orahood to visit Las Palomas, but on his arrival 
about noon there was not a white man on the ranch 



SHADOWS 317 

to show him the cattle. I knew the anxiety of my 
employer to dispose of his matured beeves, and as 
the buyer was impatient there was nothing to do 
but get up horses and ride the range with him. 
Miss Jean was anxious to have the stock shown, 
and in spite of my lameness I ordered saddle horses 
for both of us. Unable to wear a boot and still 
hobbling on crutches, I managed to Indian mount 
an old horse, my left foot still too inflamed to rest 
in the stirrup. From the ranch we rode for the 
encinal ridges and sandy lands to the southeast, 
where the fallow-weed still throve in rank profu 
sion, and where our heaviest steers were liable to 
range. By riding far from the watering points we 
encountered the older cattle, and within an hour 
after leaving the ranch I was showing some of the 
largest beeves on Las Palomas. 

How that beef buyer did ride ! Scarcely giving 
the cattle a passing look, he kept me leading the 
way from place to place where our salable stock 
was to be encountered. Avoiding the ranchitos and 
wells, where the cows and younger cattle were to 
be found, we circled the extreme outskirts of our 
range, only occasionally halting, and then but for a 
single glance over some prime beeves. We turned 
westward from the encinal at a gallop, passing about 
midway between Santa Maria and the home ranch. 
Thence we pushed on for the hills around the head 
of the Ganso. Not once in the entire ride did we 
encounter any one but a Mexican vaquero, and 



318 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

there was no relief for my foot in meeting him! 
Several times I had an inclination to ask Mr. 
Orahood to remember my sore ankle, and on strik 
ing the broken country I suggested we ride slower, 
as many of our oldest beeves ranged through these 
hills. This suggestion enabled me to ease up and 
to show our best cattle to advantage until the sun 
set. We were then twenty-five miles from the 
ranch. But neither distance nor approaching dark 
ness checked Wayne Orahood's enthusiasm. A 
dozen times he remarked, " We '11 look at a few 
more cattle, son, and then ride in home." We did 
finally turn homeward, and at a leisurely gait, but 
not until it was too dark to see cattle, and it was 
several hours after darkness when we sighted the 
lamps at headquarters, and finished the last lap in 
our afternoon's sixty-mile ride. 

My employer and Mr. Orahood had met before, 
and greeted each other with a rugged cordiality 
common among cowmen. The others had eaten 
their supper ; but while the buyer and I satisfied 
the inner man, Uncle Lance sat with us at the table 
and sparred with Orahood in repartee, or asked 
regarding mutual friends, artfully avoiding any 
mention of cattle. But after we had finished Mr. 
Orahood spoke of his mission, admitted deprecat- 
ingly that he had taken a little ride south and west 
that afternoon, and if it was not too much trouble 
he would like to look over our beeves on the north 
of the Nueces in the morning. He showed no en- 



SHADOWS 319 

thusiasm, but acknowledged that he was buying for 
shipment, and thought that another month's good 
grass ought to put our steers in fair condition. I 
noticed Uncle Lance clouding up over the buyer's 
lack of appreciation, but he controlled himself, and 
when Mr. Orahood expressed a wish to retire, my 
employer said to his guest, as with candle in hand 
the two stood in parting : 

" Well, now, Wayne, that 's too bad about the 
cattle being so thin. I 've been working my horse 
stock lately, and did n't get any chance to ride the 
range until this wet spell. But since the screw 
worms got so bad, being short-handed, I had to get 
out and rustle myself or we 'd lost a lot of calves. 
Of course, I have noticed a steer now and then, and 
have been sorry to find them so spring-poor. Actu 
ally, Wayne, if we were expecting company, we 'd 
have to send to the ferry and get a piece of bacon, 
as I have n't seen a hoof fit to kill. That roast beef 
which you had for supper well, that was sent us 
by a neighbor who has fat cows. About a year ago 
now, water was awful scarce with us, and a few old 
cows died up and down this valley. I suppose you 
did n't hear of it, living so far away. Heretofore, 
every time we had a drouth there was such a vol 
unteer growth of fallow-weed that the cattle got 
mud fat following every dry spell. Still I '11 show 
you a few cattle among the guajio brush and sand 
hills on the divide in the morning and see what you 
think of them. But of course, if they lack flesh, in 



320 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

case you are buying for shipment I shan't expect 
you to bid on them." 

The old ranchero and the buyer rode away early 
the next morning, and did not return until near 
the middle of the afternoon, having already agreed 
on a sale. I was asked to write in duplicate the 
terms and conditions. In substance, Las Palomas 
ranch agreed to deliver at Rockport on the coast, 
on the twentieth of May, and for each of the follow 
ing three months, twelve hundred and fifty beeves, 
four years old and upward. The consideration was 
$27.50 per head, payable on delivery. I knew my 
employer had oversold his holdings, but there would 
be no trouble in making up the five thousand head, 
as all our neighbors would gladly turn in cattle to 
fill the contract. The buyer was working on commis 
sion, and the larger the quantity he could contract 
for, the better he was suited. After the agreement 
had been signed in duplicate, Mr. Orahood smilingly 
admitted that ours were the best beeves he had 
bought that spring. " I knew it," said Uncle Lance ; 
44 you don't suppose I Ve been ranching in this val 
ley over forty years without knowing a fat steer 
when I see one. Tom, send a muchacho after a 
bundle of mint. Wayne, you haven't got a lick 
of sense in riding I 'm as tired as a dog." 

The buyer returned to Shepherd's the next morn 
ing. The horse breaking was almost completed, 
except allotting them into remudas, assigning bell 
mares, and putting each band under herd for a week 



SHADOWS 321 

or ten days. The weather was fairing off, relieving 
the strain of riding the range, and the ranch once 
more relaxed into its languid existence. By a pecul 
iar coincidence, Easter Sunday occurred on April 
the 13th that year, it being also the sixty-sixth birth 
day of the ranchero. Miss Jean usually gave a lit 
tle home dinner on her brother's birthday, and had 
planned one for this occasion, which was but a few 
days distant. In the mail which had been sent for 
on Saturday before Easter, a letter had come from 
John Cotton to his employer, saying he would start 
home in a few days, and wanted Father Norquin 
sent for, as the wedding would take place on the 
nineteenth of the month. He also mentioned the 
fact that Theodore expected to spend a day or two 
with the Booths returning, but he would ride di 
rectly down to the Vaux ranch, and possibly the 
two would reach home about the same time. 

I doubt if Uncle Lance ever enjoyed a happier 
birthday than this one. There was every reason 
why he should enjoy it. For a man of his age, his 
years rested lightly. The ranch had never been 
more prosperous. Even the drouth of the year be 
fore had not proved an ill wind ; for the damage 
then sustained had been made up by conditions re 
sulting in one of the largest sales of cattle in the 
history of the ranch. A chapel and three new cot 
tages had been built without loss of time and at 
very little expense. A number of children had been 
born to the soil, while the natives were as loyal to 



322 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

their master as subjects in the days of feudalism. 
There was but one thing lacking to fill the cup 
to overflowing the ranchero was childless. Pos 
sessed with a love of the land so deep as to be al 
most his religion, he felt the need of an heir. 

" Birthdays to a man of my years," said Uncle 
Lance, over Easter dinner, " are food for reflection. 
When one nears the limit of his allotted days, and 
looks back over his career, there is little that satis 
fies. Financial success is a poor equivalent for other 
things. But here I am preaching when I ought to be 
rejoicing. Some one get John's letter and read it 
again. Let 's see, the nineteenth falls on Saturday. 
Lucky day for Las Palomas ! Well, we '11 have 
the padre here, and if he says barbecue a beef, 
down goes the fattest one on the ranch. This is the 
year in which we expect to press our luck. I begin 
to feel it in my old bones that the turning-point has 
come. When Father Norquin arrives, I think I '11 
have him preach us a sermon on the evils of single 
life. But then it 's hardly necessary, for most of 
you boys have got your eye on some girl right now. 
Well, hasten the day, every rascal of you, and 
you '11 find a cottage ready at a month's notice." 

The morning following Easter opened bright and 
clear, while on every hand were the signs of spring. 
A vaquero was dispatched to the Mission to sum 
mon the padre, carrying both a letter and the com 
pliments of the ranch. Among the jobs outlined for 
the week was the repairing of a well, the walls of 



SHADOWS 323 

which had caved in, choking a valuable water sup 
ply with debris. This morning Deweese took a few 
men and went to the well, to raise the piping and 
make the necessary repairs, curbing being the most 
important. But while the foreman and Santiago 
Ortez were standing on a temporary platform some 
thirty feet down, a sudden and unexpected cave-in 
occurred above them. Deweese saw the danger, 
called to his companion, and, in a flash laid hold of 
a rope with which materials were being lowered. 
The foreman's warning to his companion reached 
the helpers above, and Deweese was hastily wind- 
lassed to the surface, but the unfortunate vaquero 
was caught by the falling debris, he and the plat 
form being carried down into the water beneath. 
The body of Ortez was recovered late that evening, 
a coffin was made during the night, and the next 
morning the unfortunate man was laid in his nar 
row home. 

The accident threw a gloom over the ranch. Yet 
no one dreamt that a second disaster was at hand. 
But the middle of the week passed without the re 
turn of either of the absent boys. Foul play began 
to be suspected, and meanwhile Father Norquin 
arrived, fully expecting to solemnize within a few 
days the marriage of one of the missing men. Aaron 
Scales was dispatched to the Vaux ranch, and re 
turned the next morning by daybreak with the in 
formation that neither Quayle nor Cotton had been 
seen on the Frio recently. A vaquero was sent to 



324 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

the Booth ranch, who brought back the intelligence 
that neither of the missing boys had been seen 
since they passed northward some two weeks before. 
Father Norquin, as deeply affected as any one, re 
turned to the Mission, unable to offer a word of 
consolation. Several days passed without tidings. 
As the days lengthened into a week, the master, as 
deeply mortified over the incident as if the two had 
been his own sons, let his suspicion fall on Quayle. 
And at last when light was thrown on the mystery, 
the old ranchero's intuition proved correct. 

My injured foot improved slowly, and before 
I was able to resume my duties on the ranch, I 
rode over one day to the San Miguel for a short 
visit. Tony Hunter had been down to Oakville a 
few days before my arrival, and while there had 
met Clint Dansdale, who was well acquainted with 
Quayle and Cotton. Clint, it appeared, had been in 
San Antonio and met our missing men, and the three 
had spent a week in the city chumming together. 
As Dansdak was also on horseback, the trio agreed 
to start home the same time, traveling in company 
until their ways separated. Cotton had told Dans- 
dale what business had brought him to the city, 
and received the latter's congratulations. The boys 
had decided to leave for home on the ninth, and on 
the morning of the day set forth, moneyless but 
rich in trinkets and toggery. But somewhere about 
forty miles south of San Antonio they met a trail 
herd of cattle from the Aransas River. Some trouble 



SHADOWS 325 

had occurred between the foreman and his men the 
day before, and that morning several of the latter 
had taken French leave. On meeting the travelers, 
the trail boss, being short-handed, had offered all 
three of them a berth. Quayle had accepted with 
out a question. The other two had stayed all night 
with the herd, Dansdale attempting to dissuade 
Cotton, and Quayle, on the other hand, persuad 
ing him to go with the cattle. In the end Quayle's 
persuasions won. Dansdale admitted that the oppor 
tunity appealed strongly to him, but he refused the 
trail foreman's blandishments and returned to his 
ranch, while the two Las Palomas lads accompa 
nied the herd, neither one knowing or caring where 
they were going. 

When I returned home and reported this to my 
employer, he was visibly affected. "So that ex 
plains all," said he, "and my surmises regarding 
Theodore were correct. I have no particular right 
to charge him with ingratitude, and yet this ranch 
was as much his home as mine. He had the same 
to eat, drink, and wear as I had, with none of the 
concern, and yet he deserted me. I never spoke 
harshly to him but once, and now I wish I had let 
him go with Captain Byler. That would have saved 
me Cotton and the present disgrace to Las Palo 
mas. I ought to have known that a good honest 
boy like John would be putty in the hands of a 
fellow like Theodore. But it 's just like a fool 
boy to throw away his chances in life. They still 



326 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

sell their birthright for a mess of pottage. And 
there stands the empty cottage to remind me that 
I have something to learn. Old as I am, my tem 
per will sometimes get away from me. Tom, you 
are my next hope, and I am almost afraid some 
unseen obstacle will arise as this one did. Does 
Frances know the facts ?" I answered that Hunter 
had kept the facts to himself, not even acquainting 
his own people with them, so that aside from my 
self he was the first to know the particulars. After 
pacing the room for a time in meditation, Uncle 
Lance finally halted and asked me if Scales would 
be a capable messenger to carry the news to the 
Vaux family. I admitted that he was the most 
tactful man on the ranch. Aaron was summoned, 
given the particulars, and commanded to use the 
best diplomacy at his command in transmitting the 
facts, and to withhold nothing; to express to the 
ranchman and his family the deep humiliation every 
one at Las Palomas felt over the actions of John 
Cotton. 

Years afterward I met Quayle at a trail town in 
the north. In the limited time at our command, 
the old days we spent together in the Nueces valley 
occupied most of our conversation. Unmentioned 
by me, his desertion of Las Palomas was intro 
duced by himself, and in attempting to apologize 
for his actions, he said : 

" Quirk, that was the only dirty act I was ever 
guilty of. I never want to meet the people the 



SHADOWS 327 

trick was practiced on. Leaving Las Palomas was 
as much my privilege as going there was. But I 
was unfortunate enough to incur a few debts while 
living there that nothing but personal revenge could 
ever repay. Had it been any other man than Lance 
Lovelace, he or I would have died the morning Cap 
tain Byler's horse herd started from the Nueces 
River. But he was an old man, and my hand was 
held and my tongue was silent. You know the 
tricks of a certain girl who, with her foot on my 
neck, stretched forth a welcoming hand to a rival. 
Tom, I have lived to pay her my last obligation in 
a revenge so sweet that if I die an outcast on the 
roadside, all accounts are square." 



CHAPTER XXI 
INTERLOCUTORY PROCEEDINGS 

A BIG summer's work lay before us. When Uncle 
Lance realized the permanent loss of three men 
from the working force of Las Palomas, he rallied to 
the situation. The ranch would have to run a double 
outfit the greater portion of the summer, and men 
would have to be secured to fill our ranks. White 
men who were willing to isolate themselves on a 
frontier ranch were scarce ; but the natives, when 
properly treated, were serviceable and, where bred 
to the occupation and inclined to domesticity, made 
ideal vaqueros. My injured foot improved slowly, 
and as soon as I was able to ride, it fell to me to 
secure the extra help needed. The desertion of 
Quayle and Cotton had shaken my employer's con 
fidence to a noticeable degree, and in giving me my 
orders to secure vaqueros, he said : 

" Tom, you take a good horse and go down the Ta- 
rancalous and engage five vaqueros. Satisfy your 
self that the men are fit for the work, and hire 
every one by the year. If any of them are in debt, 
a hundred dollars is my limit of advance money to 
free them. And hire no man who has not a family, 
for I'm losing confidence every minute in single 



INTERLOCUTORY PROCEEDINGS 329 

ones, especially if they are white. We have a few 
empty jacals, and the more children that I see run 
ning naked about the ranch, the better it suits me. 
I '11 never get my money back in building that Cot 
ton cottage until I see a mother, even though she 
is a Mexican, standing in the door with a baby in 
her arms. The older I get, the more I see my mis 
take in depending on the white element." 

I was gone some three days in securing the needed 
help. It was a delicate errand, for no ranchero 
liked to see people leave his lands, and it was only 
where I found men unemployed that I applied for 
and secured them. We sent wagons from Las Pa- 
lomas after their few effects, and had all the families 
contentedly housed, either about headquarters or at 
the outlying ranchitas, before the first contingent 
of beeves was gathered. But the attempt to induce 
any of the new families to occupy the stone cottage 
proved futile, as they were superstitious. There was 
a belief among the natives, which no persuasion could 
remove, regarding houses that were built for others 
and never occupied. The new building was ten 
dered to Tio Tiburcio and his wife, instead of their 
own palisaded jacal, but it remained tenantless an 
eyesore to its builder. 

Near the latter end of April, a contract was let 
for two new tanks on the Ganso grant of land. Had 
it not been for the sale of beef, which would require 
our time the greater portion of the summer, it was 
my employer's intention to have built these reser- 



330 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

voirs with the ranch help. But with the amount of 
work we had in sight, it was decided to let the con 
tract to parties who made it their business and were 
outfitted for the purpose. Accordingly in company 
with the contractor, Uncle Lance and myself spent 
the last few days of the month laying off and plan 
ning the reservoir sites on two small tributaries 
which formed the Ganso. We were planning to 
locate these tanks several miles above the juncture 
of the small rivulets, and as far apart as possible. 
Then the first rainfall which would make running 
water, would assure us a year's supply on the ex 
treme southwestern portion of our range. The con 
tractor had a big outfit of oxen and mules, and the 
conditions called for one of the reservoirs to be com 
pleted before June 15th. Thus, if rains fell when 
they were expected, one receptacle at least would 
be in readiness. 

When returning one evening from starting the 
work, we found Tony Hunter a guest of the ranch. 
He had come over for the special purpose of seeing 
me, but as the matter was not entirely under my 
control, my employer was brought into the consul 
tation. In the docket for the May term of court, 
the divorce proceedings between Esther and Jack 
Oxenford would come up for a hearing at Oakville 
on the seventh of the month. Hunter was anxious, if 
possible, to have all his friends present at the trial. 
But dates were getting a little close, for our first con 
tingent of beeves was due on the coast on the twen- 



INTERLOCUTORY PROCEEDINGS 331 

tieth, and to gather and drive them would require 
not less than ten days. A cross-bill had been filed 
by Oxenford's attorney at the last hour, and a 
fight was going to be made to prevent the decree 
from issuing. The judge was a hold-over from the 
reconstruction regime, having secured his appoint 
ment through the influence of congressional friends, 
one of whom was the uncle of the junior stage man. 
Unless the statutory grounds were clear, there was 
a doubt expressed by Esther's attorney whether the 
court would grant the decree. But that was the 
least of Hunter's fears, for in his eyes the man who 
would willfully abuse a woman had no rights, in court 
or out. Tony, however, had enemies ; for he and 
Oxenford had had a personal altercation, and since 
the separation the Martin family had taken the 
side of Jack's employer and severed all connections 
with the ranch. That the mail contractors had the 
village of Oakville under their control, all agreed, 
as we had tested that on our return from Fort 
Worth the spring before. In all the circumstances, 
though Hunter had no misgivings as to the ulti 
mate result, yet being a witness and accused of being 
the main instigator in the case, he felt that he 
ought, as a matter of precaution, to have a friend 
or two with him. 

" Well, now, Tony," said my employer, " this is 
crowding the mourners just a trifle, but Las Pa- 
lomas was never called on in a good cause but she 
could lend a man or two, even if they had to get up 



332 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

from the dinner table and go hungry. I don't sup 
pose the trial will last over a day or two at the 
furthest, and even if it did, the boys could ride 
home in the night. In our first bunch and in half 
a day, we '11 gather every beef in two rodeos and 
start that evening. Steamships won't wait, and if 
we were a day behind time, they might want to 
hold out demurrage on us. If it was n't for that, 
the boys could stay a week and you would be wel 
come to them. Of course, Tom will want to go, and 
about the next best man I could suggest would be 
June. I 'd like the best in the world to go myself, 
but you see how I 'm situated, getting these cattle off 
and a new tank building at the same time. Now, 
you boys make your own arrangements among your 
selves, and this ranch stands ready to back up any 
thing you say or do." 

Tony remained overnight, and we made arrange 
ments to meet him, either at Shepherd's the evening 
before or in Oakville on the morning of the trial. 
Owing to the behavior of Quayle and Cotton, none 
of us had attended the celebration of San Jacinto 
Day at the ferry. Nor had any one from the Vaux 
or McLeod ranches, for while they did not under 
stand the situation, it was obvious that something 
was wrong, and they had remained away as did 
Las Palomas. But several of Hunter's friends from 
the San Miguel had been present, as likewise had 
Oxenford, and reports came back to the ranch of 
the latter's conduct and of certain threats he had 



INTERLOCUTORY PROCEEDINGS 333 

made when he found there was no one present to 
resent them. The next morning, before starting 
home, Tony said to our segundo and myself ; 

" Then I '11 depend on you two, and I may have 
a few other friends who will want to attend. I don't 
need very many for a coward like Jack Oxenford. 
He is perfectly capable of abusing an unprotected 
woman, or an old man if he had a crowd of friends 
behind to sick him on. Oh, he 's a cur all right ; 
for when I told him that he was whelped under a 
house, he never resented it. He loves me all right, 
or has good cause to. Why, I bent the cylinder pin 
of a new six-shooter over his head when he had a 
gun on him, and he forgot to use it. I don't expect 
any trouble, but if you don't look a sneaking cur 
right in the eye, he may slip up behind and bite 
you." 

After making arrangements to turn in two hun 
dred beeves on our second contingent, and send a 
man with them to the coast, Hunter returned home. 
There was no special programme for the interim 
until gathering the beeves commenced, yet on a big 
ranch like Las Palomas there is always work. While 
Deweese finished curbing the well in which Ortez 
lost his life, I sawed off and cut new threads on all 
the rods and piping belonging to that particular 
windmill. With a tireless energy for one of his 
years, Uncle Lance rode the range, until he could 
have told at a distance one half his holdings of cattle 
by flesh marks alone. A few days before the date set 



334 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

for the trial, Enrique brought in word one evening 
that an outfit of strange men were encamped north 
of the river on the Ganso Tract. The vaquero was 
unable to make out their business, but was satisfied 
they were not there for pleasure, so my employer 
and I made an early start the next morning to see 
who the campers were. On the extreme northwest 
ern corner of our range, fully twenty-five miles from 
headquarters, we met them and found they were a 
corps of engineers, running a preliminary survey 
for a railroad. They were in the employ of the In 
ternational and Great Northern Company, which 
was then contemplating extending their line to some 
point on the Rio Grande. While there was nothing 
definite in this prior survey, it sounded a note of 
warning ; for the course they were running would 
carry the line up the Ganso on the south side of the 
river, passing between the new tanks, and leaving 
our range through a sag in the hills on the south end 
of the grant. The engineer in charge very courte 
ously informed my employer that he was under in 
structions to run, from San Antonio to different 
points on the river, three separate lines during the 
present summer. He also informed us that the other 
two preliminary surveys would be run farther west, 
and there was a possibility that the Las Palomas 
lands would be missed entirely, a prospect that was 
very gratifying to Uncle Lance. 

" Tom," said he, as we rode away, " I 've been 
dreading this very thing for years. It was my wish 



INTERLOCUTORY PROCEEDINGS 335 

that I would never live to see the necessity of fen 
cing our lands, and to-day a railroad survey is being 
run across Las Palomas. I had hoped that when I 
died, this valley would be an open range and as 
primitive as the day of my coming to it. Here a 
railroad threatens our peace, and the signs are on 
every hand that we '11 have to fence to protect our 
selves. But let it come, for we can't stop it. If I 'm 
spared, within the next year, I '11 secure every tract 
of land for sale adjoining the ranch if it costs me 
a dollar an acre. Then if it comes to the pinch, Las 
Palomas will have, for all time, land and to spare. 
You have n't noticed the changes in the country, 
but nearly all this chaparral has grown up, and the 
timber is twice as heavy along the river as when I 
first settled here. I hate the sight even of a neces 
sity like a windmill, and God knows we have no 
need of a railroad. To a ranch that does n't sell 
fat beeves over once in ten years, transportation is 
the least of its troubles." 

About dusk on the evening of the day preceding 
the trial, June Deweese and I rode into Shepherd's, 
expecting to remain overnight. Shortly after our 
arrival, Tony Hunter hastily came in and informed 
us that he had been unable to get hotel accommo 
dations for his wife and Esther in Oakville, and 
had it not been that they had old friends in the 
village, all of them would have had to return to the 
ferry for the night. These friends of the McLeod 
family told Hunter that the stage people had coerced 



336 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

the two hotels into refusing them, and had other 
wise prejudiced the community in Oxenford's favor. 
Hunter had learned also that the junior member of 
the stage firm had collected a crowd of hangers-on, 
and being liberal in the use of money, had con 
vinced the rabble of the village that he was an in 
nocent and injured party. The attorney for Esther 
had arrived, and had cautioned every one interested 
on their side of the case to be reserved and careful 
under every circumstance, as they had a bitter fight 
on their hands. 

The next morning all three of us rode into the 
village. Court had been in session over a week, and 
the sheriff had sworn in several deputies to preserve 
the peace, as there was considerable bitterness be 
tween litigants outside the divorce case. These 
under-sheriffs made it a point to see that every one 
put aside his arms on reaching the town, and tried 
as far as lay in their power to maintain the peace. 
During the early days of the reconstruction regime, 
before opening the term the presiding judge had 
frequently called on the state for a company of Texas 
Rangers to preserve order and enforce the mandates 
of the court. But in '79 there seemed little occa 
sion for such a display of force, and a few fear 
less officers were considered sufficient. On reaching 
the village, we rode to the house where the women 
were awaiting us. Fortunately there was ample 
corral room at the stable, so we were independent 
of hostelries and liveries. Mrs. Hunter was the 



INTERLOCUTORY PROCEEDINGS 337 

very reverse of her husband, being a timid woman, 
while poor Esther was very nervous under the 
dread of the coming trial. But we cheered them 
with our presence, and by the time court opened, 
they had recovered their composure. 

Our party numbered four women and five men. 
Esther lacked several summers of being as old as 
her sister, while I was by five years the youngest 
of the men, and naturally looked to my elders for 
leadership. Having left our arms at the house, we 
entered the court-room in as decorous and well- 
behaved a manner as if it had been a house of 
worship and this a Sabbath morning. A peculiar 
stillness pervaded the room, which could have been 
mistaken as an omen of peace, or the tension sim 
ilar to the lull before a battle. Personally I was 
composed, but as I allowed my eyes from time to 
time to rest upon Esther, she had never seemed so 
near and dear to me as in that opening hour of 
court. She looked very pale, and moved by the 
subtle power of love, I vowed that should any harm 
come to or any insulting word be spoken of her, 
my vengeance would be sure and swift. 

Court convened, and the case was called. As 
might have been expected, the judge held that 
under the pleadings it was not a jury case. The 
panel was accordingly excused for the day, and 
joined those curiously inclined in the main body of 
the room. The complaining witnesses were called, 
and under direct examination the essential facts 



338 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

were brought forth, laying the foundation for a 
legal separation. The plaintiff was the last witness 
to testify. As she told her simple story, a hushed 
silence fell over the room, every spectator, from 
the judge on the bench to the sheriff, being eager 
to catch every syllable of the recital. But as in 
duty bound to a client, the attorney for the defend 
ant, a young man who had come from San Antonio 
to conduct the case, opened a sharp cross-ques 
tioning. As the examination proceeded, an alterca 
tion between the attorneys was prevented only by 
the presence of the sheriff and deputies. Before 
the inquiry progressed, the attorney for the plain 
tiff apologized to the court, pleading extenuating 
circumstances in the offense offered to his client. 
Under his teachings, he informed the court, the 
purity of womanhood was above suspicion, and no 
man who wished to be acknowledged as a gentle 
man among his equals would impugn or question 
the statement of a lady. The witness on the stand 
was more to him than an ordinary client, as her 
father and himself had been young men together, 
had volunteered under the same flag, his friend 
offering up his life in its defense, and he spared to 
carry home the news of an unmarked grave on a 
Southern battle-field. It was a privilege to him to 
offer his assistance and counsel to-day to a daugh 
ter of an old comrade, and any one who had the 
temerity to offer an affront to this witness would be 
held to a personal account for his conduct. 



INTERLOCUTORY PROCEEDINGS 339 

The first day was consumed in taking testimony. 
The defense introduced much evidence in rebut 
tal. Without regard to the truth or their oaths, a 
line of witnesses were introduced who contradicted 
every essential point of the plaintiff's case. When 
the credibility of their testimony was attacked, they 
sought refuge in the technicalities of the law, and 
were supported by rulings of the presiding judge. 
When Oxenford took the stand in his own behalf, 
there were not a dozen persons present who believed 
the perjured statements which fell from his lips. 
Yet when his testimony was subjected to a rigid 
cross-questioning, every attempt to reach the truth 
precipitated a controversy between attorneys as 
bitter as it was personal. That the defendant at 
the bar had escaped prosecution for swindling the 
government out of large sums of money for a mail 
service never performed was well known to every 
one present, including the judge, yet he was allowed 
to testify against the character of a woman pure 
as a child, while his own past was protected from 
exposure by rulings from the bench. 

When the evidence was all in, court adjourned 
until the following day. That evening our trio, 
after escorting the women to the home of their 
friend, visited every drinking resort, hotel, and 
public house in the village, meeting groups of 
Oxenford's witnesses, even himself as he dispensed 
good cheer to his henchmen. But no one dared to 
say a discourteous word, and after amusing our- 



340 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

selves by a few games of billiards, we mounted our 
horses and returned to Shepherd's for the night. 
As we rode along leisurely, all three of us admitted 
misgivings as to the result, for it was clear that the 
court had favored the defense. Yet we had a belief 
that the statutory grounds were sufficient, and on 
that our hopes hung. 

The next morning found our party in court at 
the opening hour. The entire forenoon was occu 
pied by the attorney for the plaintiff in reviewing 
the evidence, analyzing and weighing every parti 
cle, showing an insight into human motives which 
proved him a master in his profession. After the 
noon recess, the young lawyer from the city ad 
dressed the court for two hours, his remarks running 
from bombast to flights of oratory, and from eulo 
gies upon his client to praise of the unimpeachable 
credibility of the witnesses for the defense. In con 
cluding, the older lawyer prefaced his remarks by 
alluding to the divine intent in the institution of 
marriage, and contending that of the two, women 
were morally the better. In showing the influence 
of the stronger upon the weaker sex, he asserted 
that it was in the power of the man to lift the 
woman or to sink her into despair. In his perora 
tion he rose to the occasion, and amid breathless 
silence, facing the court, who quailed before him, 
demanded whether this was a temple of justice. 
Replying to his own interrogatory, he dipped his 
brush in the sunshine of life, and sketched a throne 



INTERLOCUTORY PROCEEDINGS 341 

with womanhood enshrined upon it. While chivalry 
existed among men, it mattered little, he said, as 
to the decrees of courts, for in that higher tribunal, 
human hearts, woman would remain forever in 
control. At his conclusion, women were hysterical, 
and men were aroused from their usual languor 
by the eloquence of the speaker. Had the judge 
rendered an adverse decision at that moment, he 
would have needed protection ; for to the men of 
the South it was innate to be chivalrous to woman 
hood. But the court was cautious, and after an 
nouncing that he would take the case under advise 
ment until morning, adjourned for the day. 

All during the evening men stood about in small 
groups and discussed the trial. The consensus of 
opinion was favorable to the plaintiff. But in order 
to offset public opinion, Oxenford and a squad of 
followers made the rounds of the public places, 
offering to wager any sum of money that the de 
cree would not be granted. Since feeling was run 
ning rather high, our little party avoided the other 
faction, and as we were under the necessity of rid 
ing out to the ferry for accommodation, concluded 
to start earlier than the evening before. After 
saddling, we rode around the square, and at the 
invitation of Deweese dismounted before a public 
house for a drink and a cigar before starting. We 
were aware that the town was against us, and to 
maintain a bold front was a matter of necessity. 
Unbuckling our belts in compliance with the sheriff's 



342 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

orders, we hung our six-shooters on the pommels of 
our saddles and entered the bar-room. Other cus 
tomers were being waited on, and several minutes 
passed before we were served. The place was rather 
crowded, and as we were being waited on, a rabble 
of roughs surged through a rear door, led by Jack 
Oxenford. He walked up to within two feet of me 
where I stood at the counter, and apparently ad 
dressing the barkeeper, as we were charging our 
glasses, said in a defiant tone : 

" I '11 bet a thousand dollars Judge Thornton 
refuses to grant a separation between my wife and 
me." 

The words flashed through me like an electric 
shock, and understanding the motive, I turned on 
the speaker and with the palm of my hand dealt 
him a slap in the face that sent him staggering 
back into the arms of his friends. Never before or 
since have I felt the desire to take human life which 
possessed me at that instant. With no means of 
defense in my possession but a penknife, I backed 
away from him, he doing the like, and both keep 
ing close to the bar, which was about twenty feet 
long. In one hand I gripped the open-bladed pocket 
knife, and, with the other behind my back, retreated 
to my end of the counter as did Oxenford to his, 
never taking our eyes off each other. On reaching 
his end of the bar, I noticed the barkeeper going 
through motions that looked like passing him a 
gun, and in the same instant some friend behind 



INTERLOCUTORY PROCEEDINGS 343 

me laid the butt of a pistol in my hand behind my 
back. Dropping the knife, I shifted the six-shooter 
to my right hand, and, advancing on the object of 
my hate, fired in such rapid succession that I was 
unable to tell even whether my fire was being re 
turned. When my gun was empty, the intervening 
clouds of smoke prevented any view of my adver 
sary ; but my lust for his life was only intensified 
when, on turning to my friends, I saw Deweese sup 
porting Hunter in his arms. Knowing that one or 
the other had given me the pistol, I begged them 
for another to finish my work. But at that moment 
the smoke arose sufficiently to reveal my enemy 
crippling down at the farther end of the bar, a 
smoking pistol in his hand. As Oxenford sank to 
the floor, several of his friends ran to his side, 
and Deweese, noticing the movement, rallied the 
wounded man in his arms. Shaking him until his 
eyes opened, June, exultingly as a savage, cried, 
"Tony, for God's sake stand up just a moment 
longer. Yonder he lies. Let me carry you over so 
you can watch the cur die." Turning to me he con 
tinued : " Tom, you 've got your man. Run for your 
life ; don't let them get you." 

Passing out of the house during the excitement, 
I was in my saddle in an instant, riding like a fiend 
for Shepherd's. The sun was nearly an hour high, 
and with a good horse under me, I covered the ten 
miles to the ferry in less than an hour. Portions 
of the route were sheltered by timber along the 



344 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

river, but once as 1 crossed a rise opposite a large 
bend, I sighted a posse in pursuit several miles to 
the rear. On reaching Shepherd's, fortunately for 
me a single horse stood at the hitch-rack. The mer 
chant and owner of the horse came to the door as I 
dashed up, and never offering a word of explana 
tion, I changed horses. Luckily the owner of the 
horse was Red Earnest, a friend of mine, and feeling 
that they would not have long to wait for explana 
tions, I shook out the reins and gave him the rowel. 
I knew the country, and soon left the river road, 
taking an air-line course for Las Palomas, which I 
reached within two hours after nightfall. In few and 
profane words, I explained the situation to my em 
ployer, and asked for a horse that would put the 
Rio Grande behind me before morning. A number 
were on picket near by, and several of the boys ran 
for the best mounts available. A purse was forced 
into my pocket, well filled with gold. Meanwhile I 
had in my possession an extra six-shooter, and now 
that I had a moment's time to notice it, recognized 
the gun as belonging to Tony Hunter. Filling the 
empty chambers, and waving a farewell to my 
friends, I passed out by the rear and reached the 
saddle shed, where a well-known horse was being 
saddled by dexterous hands. Once on his back, I 
soon passed the eighty miles between me and the 
Rio Grande, which I swam on my horse the next 
morning within an hour after sunrise. 



CHAPTER XXII 
SUNSET 

OF my exile of over two years in Mexico, little 
need be said. By easy stages, I reached the haci 
endas on the Rio San Juan where we had received 
the cows in the summer of '77. The reception ex 
tended me was all one could ask, but cooled when 
it appeared that my errand was one of refuge and 
not of business. I concealed my offense, and was 
given employment as corporal segundo over a squad 
of vaqueros. But while the hacienda to which I was 
attached was larger than Las Palomas, with greater 
holdings in live-stock, yet my life there was one of 
penal servitude. I strove to blot out past memo-' 
ries in the innocent pleasures of my associates, min 
gling in all the social festivities, dancing with the 
dark-eyed senoritas and gambling at every fiesta. 
Yet in the midst of the dissipation, there was ever 
present to my mind the thought of a girl, likewise 
living a life of loneliness at the mouth of the San 
Miguel. 

During my banishment, but twice did any word 
or message reach me from the Nueces valley. 
Within a few months after my locating on the Rio 
San Juan, Enrique Lopez, a trusted vaquero from 



346 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

Las Palomas, came to the hacienda, apparently 
seeking employment. Recognizing me at a glance, 
at the first opportunity he slipped me a letter un 
signed and in an unknown hand. After reading it 
I breathed easier, for both Hunter and Oxenford 
had recovered, the former having been shot through 
the upper lobe of a lung, while the latter had sus 
tained three wounds, one of which resulted in the 
loss of an arm. The judge had reserved his decision 
until the recovery of both men was assured, but be 
fore the final adjournment of court, refused the de 
cree. I had had misgivings that this would be the 
result, and the message warned me to remain away, 
as the stage company was still offering a reward 
for my arrest. Enrique loitered around the camp 
several days, and on being refused employment, 
made inquiry for a ranch in the south and rode 
away in the darkness of evening. But we had had 
several little chats together, in which the rascal de 
livered many oral messages, one of which he swore 
by all the saints had been intrusted to him by my 
own sweetheart while visiting at the ranch. But 
Enrique was capable of enriching any oral message, 
and I was compelled to read between the lines ; yet 
I hope the saints, to whom he daily prayed, will 
blot out any untruthful embellishments. 

The second message was given me by Frank 
Nancrede, early in January, '81. As was his custom, 
he was buying saddle horses at Las Palomas during 
the winter for trail purposes, when he learned of 



SUNSET 347 

my whereabouts in Mexico. Deweese had given 
him directions where I could be found, and as the 
Rio San Juan country was noted for good horses, 
Nancrede and a companion rode directly from the 
Nueces valley to the hacienda where I was em 
ployed. They were on the lookout for a thousand 
saddle horses, and after buying two hundred from 
the ranch where I was employed, secured my ser 
vices as interpreter in buying the remainder. We 
were less than a month in securing the number 
wanted, and I accompanied the herd to the Rio 
Grande on its way to Texas. Nancrede offered me 
every encouragement to leave Mexico, assuring me 
that Bethel & Oxenford had lost their mail con 
tract between San Antonio and Brownsville, and 
were now operating in other sections of the state. 
He was unable to give me the particulars, but 
frauds had been discovered in Star Route lines, and 
the government had revoked nearly all the mail con 
tracts in southern Texas. The trail boss promised 
me a job with any of their herds, and assured me 
that a cow hand of my abilities would never want 
a situation in the north. I was anxious to go with 
him, and would have done so, but felt a compunc 
tion which I did not care to broach to him, for I 
was satisfied he would not understand. 

The summer passed, during which I made it a 
point to meet other drovers from Texas who were 
buying horses and cattle. From several sources the 
report of Nancrede, that the stage line south from 



348 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

San Antonio was now in new hands, was confirmed. 
One drover assured me that a national scandal had 
grown out of the Star Route contracts, and several 
officials in high authority had been arraigned for 
conspiracy to defraud. He further asserted that the 
new contractor was now carrying the mail for ten 
per cent, of what was formerly allowed to Bethel 
& Oxenford, and making money at the reduced 
rate. This news was encouraging, and after an 
exile of over two years and a half, I recrossed the 
Rio Grande on the same horse on which I had en 
tered. Carefully avoiding ranches where I was 
known, two short rides put me in Las Palomas, 
reaching headquarters after nightfall, where, in 
seclusion, I spent a restless day and night. 

A few new faces were about the ranch, but the 
old friends bade me a welcome and assured me that 
my fears were groundless. During the brief time at 
my disposal, Miss Jean entertained me with numer 
ous disclosures regarding my old sweetheart. The 
one that both pleased and interested me was that 
she was contented and happy, and that her resigna 
tion was due to religious faith. According to my 
hostess's story, a camp meeting had been held at 
Shepherd's during the fall after my banishment, by 
a sect calling themselves Predestinarians. I have 
since learned that a belief in a predetermined 
state is entertained by a great many good people, 
and I admit it seems as if fate had ordained that 
Esther McLeod and I should never wed. But it 



SUNSET 349 

was a great satisfaction to know that she felt 
resigned and could draw solace from a spiritual 
source, even though the same was denied to me. 
During the last meeting between Esther and Miss 
Jean, but a few weeks before, the former had con 
fessed that there was now no hope of our ever 
marrying. 

As I had not seen my parents for several years, 
I continued my journey to my old home on the San 
Antonio River. Leaving Las Palomas after night 
fall, I passed the McLeod ranch after midnight. 
Halting my horse to rest, I reviewed the past, and 
the best reasoning at my command showed nothing 
encouraging on the horizon. That Esther had sought 
consolation from a spiritual source did not discour 
age me ; for, under my observation, where it had been 
put to the test, the love of man and wife overrode 
it. But to expect this contented girl to renounce 
her faith and become my wife, was expecting her 
to share with me nothing, unless it was the chance 
of a felon's cell, and I remounted my horse and 
rode away under a starry sky, somewhat of a fatal 
ist myself. But I derived contentment from my 
decision, and on reaching home no one could have 
told that I had loved and lost. My parents were de 
lighted to see me after my extended absence, my 
sisters were growing fast into womanhood, and I 
was bidden the welcome of a prodigal son. During 
this visit a new avenue in life opened before me, 
and through the influence of my eldest brother I 



350 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

secured a situation with a drover and followed the 
cattle trail until the occupation became a lost one. 
My last visit to Las Palomas was during the 
winter of 1894-95. It lacked but a few months of 
twenty years since my advent in the Nueces valley. 
After the death of Oxenford by small-pox, I had 
been a frequent visitor at the ranch, business of 
one nature and another calling me there. But in 
this last visit, the wonderful changes which two de 
cades had wrought in the country visibly impressed 
me, and I detected a note of decay in the old ranch. 
A railroad had been built, passing within ten miles 
of the western boundary line of the Ganso grant. 
The Las Palomas range had been fenced, several 
large tracts of land being added after my severing 
active connections with the ranch. Even the cattle, 
in spite of all the efforts made for their improve 
ment, were not so good as in the old days of the 
open range, or before there was a strand of wire 
between the Nueces and Rio Grande rivers. But 
the alterations in the country were nothing com 
pared to the changes in my old master and mistress. 
Uncle Lance was nearing his eighty-second birth 
day, physically feeble, but mentally as active as 
the first morning of our long acquaintance. Miss 
Jean, over twenty years the junior of the ranchero, 
had mellowed into a ripeness consistent with her 
days, and in all my aimless wanderings I never 
saw a brother and sister of their ages more devoted 
to, or dependent on each other. 



SUNSET 351 

On the occasion of this past visit, I was in the 
employ of a live-stock commission firm. A mem 
ber of our house expected to attend the cattle con 
vention at Forth Worth in the near future, and I 
had been sent into the range sections to note the 
conditions of stock and solicit for my employers. 
The spring before, our firm had placed sixty thou 
sand cattle for customers. Demand continued, and 
the house had inquiry sufficient to justify them in 
sending me out to secure, of all ages, not less than 
a hundred thousand steer cattle. And thus once 
more I found myself a guest of Las Palomos. 

" Don't talk cattle to me," said Uncle Lance, 
when I mentioned my business ; " go to June 
he '11 give you the ages and numbers. And what 
ever you do, Tom, don't oversell us, for wire fences 
have cut us off, until it seems like old friends don't 
want to neighbor any more. In the days of the 
open range, I used to sell every hoof I had a chance 
to, but since then things have changed. Why, only 
last year a jury indicted a young man below here 
on the river for mavericking a yearling, and sent 
him to Huntsville for five years. That's a fair 
sample of these modern days. There is n't a cow 
man in Texas to-day who amounts to a pinch of 
snuff, but got his start the same way, but if a 
poor fellow looks out of the corner of his eye now 
at a critter, they imagine he wants to steal it. 
Oh, I know them ; and the bigger rustlers they 
were themselves on the open range, the bitterer 



352 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

their persecution of the man who follows their 
example." 

June Deweese was then the active manager of 
the ranch, and after securing a classification of 
their salable stock, I made out a memorandum and 
secured authority in writing, to sell their holdings 
at prevailing prices for Nueces river cattle. The 
remainder of the day was spent with my old friends 
in a social visit, and as we delved into the musty 
past, the old man's love of the land and his match 
making instincts constantly cropped out. 

" Tom," said he, in answer to a remark of mine, 
" I was an awful fool to think my experience could 
be of any use to you boys. Every last rascal of you 
went off on the trail and left me here with a big 
ranch to handle. Gallup was no better than the 
rest, for he kept Jule Wilson waiting until now 
she 's an old maid. Sis, here, always called Scales 
a vagabond, but I still believe something could 
have been made of him with a little encouragement. 
But when the exodus of the cattle to the north was 
at its height, he went off with a trail herd just like 
the rest of you. Then he followed the trail towns 
as a gambler, saved money, and after the cattle 
driving ended, married an adventuress, and that 's 
the end of him. The lack of a market was one of 
the great drawbacks to ranching, but when the trail 
took every hoof we could breed and every horse we 
could spare, it also took my boys. Tom, when you 
get old, you '11 understand that all is vanity and 



SUNSET 353 

vexation of spirit. But I am perfectly resigned 
now. In my will, Las Palomas and everything I 
have goes to Jean. She can dispose of it as she 
sees fit, and if I knew she was going to leave it 
to Father Norquin or his successor, my finger 
would n't be raised to stop it. I spent a lifetime 
of hard work acquiring this land, and now that 
there is no one to care for the old ranch, I wash my 
hands of it." 

Knowing the lifetime of self-sacrifice in securing 
the land of Las Palomas, I sympathized with the 
old ranchero in his despondency. 

"I never blamed you much, Tom," he resumed 
after a silence ; " but there 's something about cattle 
life which I can't explain. It seems to disqualify 
a man for ever making a good citizen afterward. 
He roams and runs around, wasting his youth, and 
gets so foxy he never marries." 

" But June and the widow made the riffle finally," 
I protested. 

" Yes, they did, and that 's something to the good, 
but they never had any children. Waited ten years 
after Annear was killed, and then got married. 
That was one of Jean's matches. Tom, you must 
go over and see Juana before you go. There was a 
match that I made. Just think of it, they have eight 
children, and Fidel is prouder over them than I ever 
was of this ranch. The natives have never disap 
pointed me, but the Caucasian seems to be played 
out." 



354 A TEXAS MATCHMAKER 

I remained overnight at the ranch. After supper, 
sitting in his chair before a cheerful fire, Uncle 
Lance dozed off to sleep, leaving his sister and 
myself to entertain each other. I had little to say 
of my past, and the future was not encouraging, ex 
cept there was always work to do. But Miss Jean 
unfolded like the pages of an absorbing chronicle, 
and gave me the history of my old acquaintances 
in the valley. Only a few of the girls had married. 
Frances Vaux, after flirting away her youth, had 
taken the veil in one of the orders in her church. 
My old sweetheart was contentedly living a life of 
seclusion on the ranch on which she was born, ap 
parently happy, but still interested in any word of 
me in my wanderings. The young men of my ac 
quaintance, except where married, were scattered 
wide, the whereabouts of nearly all of them un 
known. Tony Hunter had held the McLeod estate 
together, and it had prospered exceedingly under 
his management. My old friend, Red Earnest, who 
outrode me in the relay race at the tournament in 
June, '77, was married and serving in the Customs 
Service on the Rio Grande as a mounted river guard. 

The next morning, I made the round of the Mex 
ican quarters, greeting my old friends, before tak 
ing my leave and starting for the railroad. The 
cottage which had been built for Esther and me 
stood vacant and windowless, being used only for 
a storehouse for zacahuiste. As I rode away, the 
sight oppressed me ; it brought back the June time 



SUNSET 355 

of my youth, even the hour and instant in which 
our paths separated. On reaching the last swell 
of ground, several miles from the ranch, which 
would give me a glimpse of headquarters, I halted 
my horse in a farewell view. The sleepy old ranch 
cosily nestled among the encinal oaks revived a 
hundred memories, some sad, some happy, many of 
which have returned in retrospect during lonely 
hours since. 



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